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The War Drama of the Eagles 

The Soldiers Whom Wellington Led 

The Sailors Whom Nelson Led 









36 ESS&X STR'JBjv 

First Published in IQ14 



t ' 


'T~~ V HIS year has seen the Centenary of the release of 
-*- Napoleon's British Prisoners of War. In that 
connection these narratives of the exceptional experiences 
and adventures that some of them went through should 
be timely in their interest, and also prove useful as a 
general historical record. The book offers also, I venture 
to think, a new picture to the great gallery of Napoleonic 
portraits, and one that, it may be, is less familiar than 
some others — a portrait of Napoleon as the Gaoler of 

E. F. 



napoleon's methods with his continental CAPTIVES - I 









LORD BLAYNEY - - - - - I 97 




WHEN THE END CAME ..... 295 

INDEX ------- 309 


NAPOLEON IN HADES .... Frontispiece 

From a painting in the Wiertz Collection, Brussels 



From a contemporary drawing by a British prisoner of war 


From a contemporary drawing by James Forbes, a British 



Reproduced by courtesy of the Secretary of the Royal United 
Service Institution 


From a contemporary sketch by a British prisoner of war 


AT VERDUN - - - - - - 112 

Reproduced by courtesy of the Secretary of the Royal United 
Service Institution 


From a contemporary sketch by a British prisoner of war 


From Marbot and De Noirmont's " Costumes Militaires 
Francais " 


PRISON-DEPOT ------ 202 

From a contemporary sketch by Richard Langton, one of the 
Verdun prisoners 





Reproduced by courtesy of the Secretary of the Royal United 
Service Institution 


Made by Lieutenant George Sidney Smith, R.N., an ex- 
prisoner of war, whose boat took Napoleon from the 



From a plan by Midshipman Boyes 




IT ALFa million of men, in round numbers, passed the 
1 frontiers of France between 1803 and 1814 as 
prisoners of war. 

Of the total, the British prisoners numbered fewer than 
12,000,* and of these, speaking generally, more than a 
third were merchantman officers and sailors captured at 
sea by French frigates and privateers. Of the naval 
officers and men who fell into Napoleon's hands during 
the Great War nine out of ten were the victims of ship- 
wreck in home waters, off the coasts of France and 
Holland, or of strandings under fire while on blockade 
duty, or when chasing French vessels inshore. Stragglers 
taken during Sir John Moore's disastrous Corunna cam- 
paign, or at the time of the ill-fated Walcheren expedi- 
tion, formed the bulk of the British soldiers interned as 
prisoners of war in France. What prisoners the French 
made from Wellington's army during the five years of the 
Peninsular War mostly trickled into the depots in France 
by driblets, so to speak, as they were taken here and there 
at the front, either cut off singly or in small numbers, or 
captured in isolated detachments. 

Napoleon's British prisoners of war also, in regard to 

* The numbers are variously stated : it is impossible to get at the 
exact figures even from records at the Ministry of War in Paris. They 
are sometimes put as high as from 15,000 to 16,000, but about 12,000 
seems as near the mark as it is safe to go. 



the way in which Napoleon dealt with them, went through 
hardships and ill-treatment bad enough, but, except in 
certain isolated cases in which a reason could be assigned, 
entirely different from the atrocious and inhuman mal- 
treatment undergone by the captives of the Grand Army 
from the Continental battlefields. That was so, un- 
doubtedly, for one sufficiently cogent reason : as a matter 
of prudence on Napoleon's part, in view of ever possible 
British reprisals. Between 1803 and 1814 no fewer than 
122,400 French prisoners, practically all soldiers and 
sailors, were landed in England as prisoners of war. 
Napoleon, in such circumstances, could not venture to 
treat his British prisoners as he treated the captured 
soldiers of his beaten European enemies, the prisoners 
taken at Ulm and Austerlitz and Wagram, the wretched 
Prussians swept up after the Jena campaign, or his yet 
more cruelly ill-used Spanish captives. 

Of that harsh and brutal feature of the warfare of the 
Napoleonic period hardly anything has ever been told on 
this side of the Channel. An outline of the story at the 
outset here will serve to show to what lengths Napoleon 
was prepared to go where there was no deterring influence 
to induce him to stay his hand ; to set forth what the 
fortune of war saved our soldiers and sailors who fell into 
Napoleon's power from having to suffer. 

To begin with the fate of the 90,000 or 100,000 victims 
of the first campaigns of the Grand Army, the unfortunate 
Austrian prisoners from Ulm and Austerlitz. Napoleon 
practically made slaves of them during the months that 
they remained in France ; condemning them to servitude 
as hewers of wood and drawers of water for their captors. 
He directed that they should be made to toil as field 
labourers, or in the employ of the municipal authorities 
in return for their keep, certain of them being given the 
alternative of forswearing their nationality and taking 
service in the French foreign legions. 

" They will take the place of our conscripts in field 


labour," announced Napoleon in his proclamation to his 
victorious army on the day after the capitulation of Ulm, 
when speaking of the Austrian prisoners. At the same 
time he wrote this to Champagny, his Minister of the 
Interior at that time : " Upwards of 70,000 prisoners will 
arrive in France. Send information to the prefects de- 
siring them to notify their coming to landowners and 
farmers who may wish to employ them, so that they may 
state their requirements. Have the prisoners distributed 
among the Departments, taking care not to place them 
too near the frontiers of Germany. M. Cretet, Director 
of Public Works, can also utilize them in gangs as bat- 
talions of pioneers. The prisoners have cost me dearly : 
see that you make use of them." These were Napoleon's 
actual words : " Pres de 70,000 prisonniers se rendent en 
France. II faut que vous ecriviez aux prefets pour que 
les proprietaires qui voulent en employer dans leur terres 
fassent leur demande et qu'on disperse ces prisonniers 
dans differents departements, en evitant d'en mettre dans 
ceux frontieres d'Allemagne. M. Cretet (directeur des 
ponts et chaussees) pourrait en former des bataillons de 
pionniers. Ces prisonniers me coutent fort cher. Voyez 
a les utiliser." 

The hapless Austrians, though, had had, before they 
reached France, to experience cruel humiliations and 
ill-treatment — indeed, even before they left the field of 

The Ulm prisoners, immediately after the surrender, 
were stripped of their cloaks and boots, many of them 
also of their uniform coats. They were started off on their 
long tramp to France regardless of what they might suffer 
from the inclemency of the terrible weather that prevailed. 
Their clothing and foot-gear were wanted to supply the 
French soldiers. Many of the French regiments- were 
almost in rags we are told, owing to the poor quality of 
the clothing supplied by the army contractors, and also 
practically shoeless (" presque nu-pieds," says a Staff 


officer), their boots having been worn out in the long 
forced marches from the camp of Boulogne over the rough 
roads of the Vosges and the Black Forest in the wet 
and stormy weather of that autumn. The old coats and 
worn-out shoes of the French were given in exchange to 
the prisoners, to make shift with as best they might. 
Several of the French regiments at Austerlitz in the 
following December, as a fact, particularly those in Marshal 
Soult's Army Corps, took part in the battle dressed in 
white uniform coats stripped off the Austrian prisoners at 
Ulm in the previous October. 

Peace was signed at Pressburg on December 29, 1805, 
but the unfortunate prisoners of Ulm, to whom had been 
added the Austerlitz prisoners and others from elsewhere, 
were not released. The Austrian Government loyally 
sent back the French prisoners in their hands in ac- 
cordance with the terms of the treaty, but no Austrian 
prisoners were forthcoming from France. Napoleon re- 
tained all his prisoners, and then, in reply to a demand 
from Vienna for their return, refused to give them up. 
The Austrians, he asserted, had not accounted for all the 
1,500 prisoners who had fallen into their hands in the 
war. They were keeping many of them back, he declared, 
in duress, undergoing " un regime severe " in Carniola and 
Hungary. In March, 1806, tiring apparently of the cor- 
respondence on the subject, he made a show of intending 
to release his prisoners at an early date, but it was not 
until the following August that the Austrian prisoners 
were finally handed their feuilles de route to leave France; 
and even then numbers of them never arrived in their own 
country at all. Every kind of underhand artifice was 
resorted to, with the idea of inducing as many as possible 
of the Austrians, while on the march through France to 
the Rhine, to desert and enrol themselves in the foreign 
legions of German subjects which Napoleon was at that 
time forming as auxiliary corps to the Grand Army. Re- 
cruiting officers of German extraction hung round the 


columns of departing prisoners, like wasps buzzing round 
a jam-pot, to cajole or bribe the Austrians to take service 
under Napoleon. " Mon intention est," wrote Napoleon 
to Berthier on May 11, 1806, " qu'il d£serte le plus d'Au- 
trichiens possible." 

His purpose was to cripple the army of Austria by 
that means : by depriving her regiments of all the trained 
men that he could. To that end also Napoleon secretly 
incited the authorities of Baden, Wiirtemberg, and 
Bavaria, which States were at that time under French 
domination, and through whose territories the returning 
prisoners had to pass to do their part in inducing the 
Austrian soldiers to desert, giving them leave to draft as 
many of the Austrians as they could get hold of into their 
own armies. " Mon intention est que les Bavarois, les 
Wurtembergeois, les Badois en prennent autant qu'ils 
pourront. . . . Les prisonniers seront escortes par les 
troupes de Baviere, de Wiirtemberg et de Bade, et, comme 
de raison elles en prendront le plus qu'elles pourront en 
route et laisseront deserter tous ceux qui les voudront." 

The 140,000 Prussian prisoners sent to France after the 
Jena campaign were dealt with in much the same way 
that the captive Austrians from Ulm and Austerlitz had 
been ordered to be disposed of. They were indeed, in 
addition, treated more shamefully still. After being 
collected in great camps near Dijon and Troyes, most 
of the Prussians were tramped round the country and 
farmed out to the municipal and communal authorities 
broadcast over France, "offering the use of their disarmed 
services, for which moderate pay would suffice, to our 
manufacturers and cultivators to replace our conscripts in 
the fields." That was what was done at first. But 
Napoleon went further still. There were more than 
enough prisoners to go round. With so great a number 
on his hands, Napoleon, to save their keep, offered to hire 
out several thousand of the Prussians to Holland and 
Spain, to be turned to account in those countries. Those 


sent to Holland might be employed, he suggested, as in 
France, to replace in agricultural work the Dutch con- 
scripts which Napoleon required Holland to supply. 
Those sent to Spain were offered specially for enrolment 
in the foreign regiments of the Spanish army, Spain being 
at that time still in nominal alliance with France. " Si 
l'Espagne et la Hollande," wrote Napoleon from Berlin, 
" veulent avoir de ces prisonniers, on peut leur en donner. 
Si le Prince de Paix en veut 10,000 je les lui enverrai." 
Black, however, as Napoleon has to be painted in regard 
to this matter, he must at least be given his due. One 
stipulation he did make. The Prussians were not to 
be shipped across the Atlantic to work in the Spanish 
mines: they were to be used as soldiers only. " J'y 
attacherai la condition," said Napoleon when instructing 
Talleyrand to make the offer to Spain, " qu'on ne les 
envoie pas en Amerique travailler aux mines, mais qu'on 
en fasse des soldats en Espagne." Napoleon, in addition, 
sent a considerable number of the Prussians to Naples to 
his brother Joseph, to be enrolled in the ranks of the 
Neapolitan army. 

Years of cruel servitude were in store for the ill-fated 
Prussian captives, until after the fall of Paris in 18 14. 
As one minor incident of their humiliation, it fell to them 
in several places, we are told, to have to decorate the 
triumphal arches " erected in honour of the victors of Jena 
and Friedland " during the fetes of 1808, when the Grand 
Army, on its way from Germany to Spain, marched across 
France amid scenes of jubilant excitement and exultation. 
Remarks a French officer, whose regiment was among 
those feted by the authorities of Nancy : " We found 
several thousand Prussian prisoners at Nancy, and the 
poor wretches had to erect the decorated arches and 
to witness the feasting of their conquerors and the public 
crowning with wreaths of laurel of the victorious standards 
of Jena." 

During the Jena campaign, at the time of their capture 


in the field, the Prussian prisoners had had to undergo the 
same brigand treatment that had previously been the 
harsh fate of the Austrian prisoners of Ulm and Austerlitz. 
As before, the French army was desperately in need of 
boots and clothing to replace that worn out on campaign. 
By Napoleon's orders the Prussian soldiers, we are told, 
" on being taken were marched off to the nearest bivouacs 
of the French, where they were stripped of their coats and 
cloaks, many of them even of their underclothing, their 
shirts ; and had their boots pulled off for distribution on 
the spot among their captors, receiving in exchange the 
worn-out and tattered garments and broken shoes of our 

The Prussian prisoners in France had to drain the cup 
of their bitter humiliation to the very dregs. More 
degrading than even municipal drudgery, or digging and 
ploughing in the fields for their captors, was the fate that 
befel not a few of the hapless Prussians, and from almost 
the outset of their captivity. 

Reluctance to obey orders, or the raising of objection to 
work set them, was for the prisoners constituted a penal 
offence. At several places in France, not long after their 
arrival on distribution, the Prussian prisoners, it is stated, 
'• proved troublesome " on being told off to their tasks. 
They were not to be made slaves of, protested the poor 
fellows. Their refusal to do field labour, on being brought 
in due course to Napoleon's notice, received short shrift. 
"C'est une mauvaise plaisanterie de dire que les prisonniers 
ne veulent pas travailler " was his cynical comment on 
hearing the news. Napoleon thereupon issued an order 
atrocious in its deliberate inhumanity. The recalcitrant 
Prussians, he laid down, were to be treated as convicts 
sentenced to penal servitude. The " strikers," with other 
Prussians who for their part had objected to be forced 
into the Spanish service, were at once drafted off in gangs 
and marched to out-of-the-way districts on the coast of 
France, escorted by armed guards instructed to shoot 


down any who " proved rebellious " en route, or tried 
to escape. They were forcibly compelled now to labour 
at digging canals, making military roads, building embank- 
ments, and reclaiming and draining marsh-lands. Some 
were drafted off to the South of France to toil there among 
the swamps of the estuary of the Rhone. Others were 
similarly set to work in the marshes of Gascony and 
the desolate wastes at the mouth of the Charente and the 
Garonne, and in the neighbourhood of Rochefort. That 
was the punishment dealt out to the Prussians who 
objected to go to Spain. Wrote Napoleon in March, 
1807, on hearing that there had been difficulties with some 
of these prisoners : " Puisque les Prussians ne veulent pas 
aller en Espagne, prenez ce pretexte pour les dissoudre 
dans le Languedoc et les faire employer au canal d' Aries 
et aux marais de Rochefort." Others, again, were packed 
off to the north and planted down in penal colonies among 
the dreary fever-stricken mud-flats of Walcheren. " Rien 
peu " of these unfortunates, it is stated, survived to return 
to their native land in 1814. A number of the Prussian 
prisoners, furthermore, were even compulsorily enrolled 
to serve on fatigue duty in the transport and artillery 
train of the French army corps stationed along the coast 
in the west of France and Brittany. 

Not a few, indeed, of the Prussian prisoners, besides 
these, Napoleon's recruiting agents, busy among them 
as elsewhere, enlisted — as the alternative to their daily 
drudgery — into the ranks of various supplemental regi- 
ments of the line, forming most of them into battalions by 
themselves, with French officers in command. " Eh bien, 
ils marcheront !" replied Napoleon on some difficulty of 
international law in regard to their enrolment being 
suggested in his presence. " C'est une loi de rigueur. 
II vaut mieux suivre la conscription sous l'aigle Francais 
que sous l'aigle Prussien ou Allemande." Among Welling- 
ton's Peninsular War trophies, now at Chelsea Hospital, 
are the flags of two of the Prussian battalions so enrolled. 


They bear inscriptions that are still decipherable. One 
flag, that in the best state of preservation, bears on one 
side the words, originally painted on in gold letters, 
" L'Empereur des Francais au Regiment Prussien." On 
the other side, in a lozenge-shaped white space, bordered 
red and blue in the corners of the flag, are the words, 
" Valeur et Discipline," with underneath, " 3 me Bataillon." 
The second flag is in a much faded and tattered condi- 
tion. The words " Empereur des Francais au Regiment 
Prussien " can be made out on it on one side ; of the 
inscription on the other side only this lettering remains, 
" eur," " Discipline/'^ and " Bataillon." The battalion 
number has peeled off or been torn away, or has rotted 
away in the course of years. 

Polish and Russian prisoners taken at Austerlitz pro- 
vided Napoleon with the nucleus of his famous (or from 
the point of view of Wellington's men in Spain, infamous) 
Polish Legion, which was first organized in September, 
1806.*" The Polish Legion kept on growing in numbers 
until it comprised twelve regiments of infantry, six of 
cavalry (the celebrated Polish Lancers), and nine batteries 
of artillery. Swedes, and many of the Austrian prisoners 
from the Wagram campaign, were also drafted com- 
pulsorily into the ranks of the Polish Legion. Albanians 
and Greeks from Corfu, with prisoners from among 
the former soldiers of the army of Venice, were 
rounded up into a Dalmatian Legion. A Hanoverian 
Legion was put together from all the surrendered soldiers 
of King George's former Hanoverian army which Napo- 
leon could get hold of, and former troops of the Hanse 
cities, the Hanoverians being those unable to escape 
across the North Sea and join the " King's German 
Legion," raised in England from among their more 
fortunate comrades, which did such excellent service 
under Wellington in Spain and at Waterloo. 

* Sec the author's chapter " On the Day of the ' Die Hards/ " in 
" The Soldiers whom Wellington Led." 


There was, too, the Irish Legion, first raised among 
refugees from Emmet's " United Irishmen " (with others 
who had escaped across the Channel after the rising 
of '98) in November, 1803. For its recruiting Napoleon 
during 1804 and 1805 sent secret agents over to Ireland 
to enlist and ship men across to France by stealth. 
The corps had an Eagle granted it, and each of its 
battalions carried a green flag bearing a dedicatory 
inscription and the legend " L'Independance d'Irlande."* 
To keep up the numbers of the Irish Legion persistent 
efforts were made to seduce the British prisoners in 
France between 1805 an d 1808, and in Spain also, during 
the earlier part of the Peninsular War — downright ill- 
treatment even being had recourse to often, as will be 
related, to force British prisoners taken in the field to 
forswear their allegiance and take service under the 
green flag.f Napoleon himself, for a special reason, 
ordered the practice to cease at the end of 1810. " I 
don't want any more English soldiers enlisted," he 
wrote to Marshal Soult in Spain. " I prefer them being 
kept prisoners, to set off against my men who are 
prisoners in England ; besides, the majority of them only 
desert back again." 

It was on the unfortunate Spaniards, those in particular 
made prisoners at the time of the rising of 1808 and during 
the earlier years of the Peninsular War, that Napoleon's 
hand fell heaviest of all. They were largely the remnant 
of regular soldiers of the old Spanish army remaining in 
the country and the volunteer regiments and irregulars 
forming the patriot forces which attempted time after 
time to confront the French on the battlefield, almost 
invariably with disastrous consequences to themselves. 
The prisoners taken were marked down as special objects 

* See the story of the Irish Legion's Eagle in " The War Drama 
of the Eagles," by the author. 

f Something more of that in detail is told on later pages of this 
book, among the personal experiences of certain British officers 
while prisoners. See in particular pp. 27, 65, 69-72, 103-5, 187, 213. 


of French vengeance, and suffered accordingly. Napoleon, 
indeed, subjected his Spanish captives to terrible atrocities, 
consistently displaying towards them an animosity that 
was pitiless in its savagery, meting out to them the most 
abominable cruelties from sheer vindictiveness. 

At the outset of the French occupation of Spain, the 
best regiments of Spanish regulars, to the number of 
15,000 men, were got out of the way by being sent to the 
other side of Europe, to form garrisons in Liibeck and 
Swedish Pomerania and in Holstein. An equal number 
of good troops were marched off to Italy to do garrison 
duty there. The regiments that were left in the country 
were to be disbanded, with the exception of the Walloon 
Guards, formerly recruited in the Spanish Netherlands, 
and 11,000 Swiss mercenaries at that time in the Spanish 
service, which Napoleon directed were to be merged in the 
French army. 

Such was the military position in Spain in regard to the 
national forces when the popular revolt of May, 1808, 
broke out, immediately after which came the surrender of 
Dupont's corps at Baylen, in Andalusia, cut off and trapped 
among the mountains by a sudden concentration of some 
of the troops left behind and local guerilla bands. From 
that time onwards Napoleon treated the Spaniards whom 
he took prisoners with deliberate barbarity, making them 
the victims of the most outrageous ill-treatment. 

The prisoners first taken were kept for a time herded 
together behind iron bars on board old frigate hulks at 
Bayonne, until the arrangements for their disposal else- 
where had been completed. As more and more prisoners 
arrived, the hulks were emptied and the wretched 
Spaniards tramped off to their destinations. They were 
marched away in convoys of a thousand prisoners at a 
time, guarded by gendarmes and soldiers who had instruc- 
tions to shoot without mercy should any of the prisoners 
even show a sign of wanting to escape. " L'ordre est," 
describes a French officer attached to one of the Spanish 


convoys, " de faire feu sur quiconque tente de s'^vader. 
Au marche, les soldats fusillent sans managements tous 
ceux qui paraissent avoir l'idee d'£chapper." " On the 
march once," relates somebody else, telling of an incident 
that took place when a train of prisoners was marching 
in company with a column of French troops, " a cavalry 
General, Boussard, imagining himself insulted by the looks 
of a Spanish General, told a voltigeur to shoot the officer 
dead on the spot. The soldier fired and killed the Colonel's 
Adjutant, who had thrust himself in front and received the 

An ex-English soldier, taken in Sir John Moore's retreat 
to Corunna, who subsequently abandoned his nationality 
and became personal servant to General Kellermann, told 
this to Captain Boothby of the Royal Engineers, who met 
him while the Captain was on his way to France as a 
prisoner on parole. " Lord," said the man, in talking 
to Boothby, " when the poor devils be tired and sick 
and can't come on, they'll take 'em behind a house 
and put a couple of balls through 'em in a minute !" 
" This fact," adds Captain Boothby, referring to what 
he himself saw while on his way as one of a convoy of 
prisoners from Madrid to the frontier, "which all the 
inhabitants have unceasingly affirmed, is too well corrob- 
orated by the carcasses of Spanish soldiers on the road, 
upon whose bodies the uniform declares their nation, and 
the wounds the manner of their death. . . . The reasons 
of policy alleged for these monstrous massacres," proceeds 
the Captain, " is that, if those wretches were left sick on 
the road, they would only serve to strengthen the brigands." 

Captain Boothby describes also how, while he was on 
his journey, allowed to travel in a carriage because of his 
wound, he saw some recaptured prisoners treated. 

" We soon came up with the rear of the convoy, which 
is at halt. A musket goes off in front ! ' It is finished,' 
cries a French soldier, laughing. Again ! — two ! — three ! 
— four ! — five ! — six ! — seven ! I let down the glass and 


say to Stephens (another British officer prisoner), who is 
walking, ' What the deuce is all that ? Are we in action 
with the brigands ?' ' No ! ' says he, with a black look, 
' they're shooting the Spanish prisoners !' Again ! — eight ! 
— nine ! ' Holy God, pardon us !' cries a French soldier. 
' Oh, cursed Commandant !' exclaims a French woman. 
We are penetrated with horror, but hang on the hope that 
bullocks have been the victims, not men. Moving on, 
however, we pass the lifeless bodies of two unhappy 
wretches, who have thus required so many bullets to 
despatch them. Close to the scene of action is the mur- 
derous director. 1 look out of the opposite window. 
Stephens looks at him without acknowledgment. Now 
he rides up to the window, bowing and complimenting. 
. . . He says, ' I have just been shooting two rascals ! 
(Swears.) Thirty of the Spanish prisoners have hid them- 
selves in the wine-caves, where the devil himself could not 
find them. (Swears.) I caught these two — (swears) — and 
have made them an example to the rest. (Swears.) ' " 

The British Captain also speaks of his " amazement as 
well as horror that the French soldiers have attained 
that pitch of human butchery which enables them to 
murder, without emotion, amidst the easy cheerful fellow- 
ship of a peaceful journey, numbers of poor wretches 
whose only crime is to be sinking under disease, naked- 
ness, hunger, and fatigue." 

The most wickedly treated of all the Spanish prisoners 
were the heroic defenders of Saragossa and Gerona. 
Granted special terms on surrender, together with the 
honours of war, every stipulation made with them was 
shamelessly violated. Twelve thousand pale and emaciated 
Spaniards, exhausted and staggering from fatigue after 
undergoing fifty days of fierce fighting in open trenches, 
and six weeks of yet more desperate house to house 
fighting in the streets, amid all the horrors of virulent 
pestilence, surrendered at Saragossa. Not six thousand 
reached the Pyrenees on the way to France. Some 


of the others managed to escape, but most of the missing 
six thousand had been shot on the way. " Three to four 
hundred a day perished," we are told, killed either for 
trying to escape, or because the wretched, worn-out 
creatures were incapable of keeping up along the line of 
march : " lorsqu'ils ne peuvent pas marcher on les fusille." 

In France the survivors were dealt with very much as 
the Prussians of the Jena campaign had been treated 
on their refusal to slave for their captors. They were 
summarily packed off in droves and distributed along 
the western coast of France, where they were made to 
labour like ordinary convicts — it was one of the author- 
ized punishments for civil criminals — in laying down 
roads, building embankments, and draining marshes. 
As with the refractory Prussians, again, a large number 
of the surviving defenders of Saragossa were sent to the 
north and cantoned for work at making dams and 
sluices among the pestilential swamps of Walcheren ; 
in a climate so dreary and inclement, and considered 
indeed so unhealthy by Napoleon himself, that the 
French troops garrisoning the district were not allowed 
to be quartered nearer than at Ghent. Whether the 
ill-fated Spaniards lived or died was held to be of no 
account. They were, wrote Napoleon, when laying 
down the measures to be taken with regard to employing*" 
them, " des fanatiques qui n'exigent aucun management." 
Others of the Saragossa prisoners were set on dyke- 
building, and reclamation works among the swampy flats 
of North Holland and Zealand, where the miserable 
wretches " died in the winter like flies." 

The treatment of the 4,300 Spanish prisoners of the 
Gerona garrison was the same — the penalty imposed 
on brave men who had held out during a siege of seven 
months, starving and fever-stricken, while they kept 
at bay 17,000 French troops with 180 cannon, and at the 
last only laid down their arms on being granted, on paper, 
honourable terms. 


The treatment of the Spaniards of Saragossa and 
Gerona, it should be said though, was hardly worse in 
its sheer inhumanity than the penalty Napoleon exacted 
on other occasions where he met with unexpected re- 
sistance ; than that which he inflicted, for example, on 
the prisoners captured at Stralsund, the surrendered 
survivors of the Prussian Colonel Schill's attempted 
rising, who were sent in chains as forcats to the bagiie of 
Brest and the galleys of Toulon. 

As Spanish prisoners in increasing numbers fell into 
the hands of the French after the defeats of the patriot 
armies of Blake and Castanos and other leaders, they 
were interned in out of the way places in Central and 
South-Eastern France, being made to earn their keep 
by daily labour in factories and field employment, and 
on yarious public works, where they were kept to their 
tasks in gangs with armed warders standing over them, 
generally National Guards, one soldier having charge of 
ten Spaniards. 

The Spaniards on field and factory labour went about 
their tasks, we are told, sullenly and stolidly, holding 
aloof from intercourse with the French people. Sickness 
was rife among them everywhere, and numbers suc- 
cumbed to their hardships and the climate of the places 
where they were quartered ; "the mortality was terrible; 
the Castilians could not endure the damp climate of 
Poitou ; the Valencians perished by hundreds in the cold 
Jura and rainy Cevennes." To this day there are few 
cemeteries all over Central and South-Eastern France 
without their " Spanish Corner," where the ill-fated 
victims of Napoleon's vengeance from across the Pyrenees 
lie thickly beneath the soil. 

Most of the Spanish officers were kept separated from 
the men, confined in various fortified places in Central 
France and in Languedoc. They occupied themselves, 
a great number of them, in making translations of 
French literature. As a rule, where they were allowed 


to congregate, they kept stiffly apart from one another ; 
Castilians declining to associate with fellow-prisoners 
from La Mancha ; Aragonese having nothing to do with 
brother-officers from Valencia or Catalonia. 

Napoleon served Russia after Eylau and Friedland in 
much the same way that he had served Austria in regard 
to the Ulm and Austerlitz prisoners. At first, immediately 
after Tilsit, he announced his intention of displaying 
extreme magnanimity towards his Russian captives. " My 
intention is," wrote he in a communication to Paris, " that 
all the Russian prisoners in France be entirely clothed in 
new uniforms and re-armed, and so sent back to Russia." 
" Que vous fassiez habiller a neuf ces prisonniers avec leur 
uniforme, voulant les renvoyer en Russie parfaitement 
habill^s et armes," were his words. A few weeks later, 
however, he changed his mind, swinging right round. 
The insistent Russian demand for the restitution of a 
number of Poles whom Napoleon had already incorporated 
in his Polish Legion was, it would appear, the cause of his 
change of mind. 

After that Napoleon put forward, by way of counter- 
move, an assertion on all fours with the charges he had 
launched against Austria in 1806. The Russian authori- 
ties, he roundly declared, had only returned a portion of 
the French prisoners in their hands. Until they were all 
returned, announced Napoleon, he would not part with 
a single man of his Russian prisoners. With insolent 
hardihood he went on then to complain that according to 
the French regimental returns no fewer than 7,000 of 
his men, known to have been taken prisoners, had not 
been accounted for. The figures were false on their face — 
a deliberate concoction. Napoleon further, in the course 
of the correspondence, made the ugly suggestion — again a 
lie — that many of his soldiers whom the Russians had 
already returned had been maltreated while in captivity. 
A deadlock in the negotiations ensued, on which Napoleon 
openly announced his intention of not returning a single 


Russian prisoner : " Mon intention est qu'on n'accorde aux 
Russes aucun prisonnier." Orders were thereupon issued 
that the 6,000 Russian prisoners actually in French hands 
should be drafted into the Neapolitan army. They were 
eventually sent to serve in Catalonia as part of the 
Neapolitan contingent operating against the insurrec- 
tionary Spaniards. In the end the matter was left where 
it stood. Apparently the St. Petersburg authorities, finding 
Napoleon obdurate in regard to the Poles, decided, after a 
good deal of more or less heated correspondence with the 
French War Office, not to bother further over the fate of 
the men, who, most of them, were after all only peasant 
serfs ! The French prisoners all the time had not 
numbered more than about three thousand, taken princi- 
pally at Eylau, in the February battle ; and the majority 
of them had died from cold and exposure while being 
marched through the snow to Wilna and Grodno under 
the lances of the Cossacks. 

The batches of Swedish soldiers made prisoners along 
the Baltic coast during the Eylau campaign Napoleon 
treated as he had done their allies the Prussians. He 
made use of most of them in like manner to plough the 
fields and labour on public works for their conquerors 
in place of French conscripts sent to the front. Others 
he enlisted and despatched to Spain. 

After Wagram, at the close of the second Austrian War, 
for nearly eighteen months Napoleon repeated his former 
trickery with regard to the prisoners he had in his hands : 
this time in round numbers some twenty thousand. The 
Austrian prisoners were all kept back, interned in France, 
in defiance of the stipulation for their immediate exchange 
against the French prisoners in the Treaty of Vienna. 
Napoleon's marriage to Marie Louise was a dynastic 
affair : it made no difference in regard to the Austrian 
prisoners. Napoleon, after the treaty had been signed, 
while holding back the Austrian prisoners, with shameless 
effrontery demanded as a preliminary to his release of 


them, not only the return of all French prisoners in 
Austrian hands, but also the turning out of Austria 
of a number of other persons. He insisted on the dis- 
charge from the Austrian service of all natives of territories 
ceded to France by the Treaty of Vienna (which involved 
the transfer of allegiance of three and a half millions 
of people) before, Napoleon declared, he would give up 
a single man. More than that, he insisted on the handing 
over of ten thousand " subjects of the French Empire," as 
Napoleon designated them, then serving in the Austrian 
army: emigres Belgians (natives of the former Austrian 
Netherlands territory), French deserters, and others. For 
eighteen months the French and Austrian diplomatists 
exchanged notes, until in the end, in despair, the Austrian 
Government gave in to the French demands. All that 
Napoleon would allow was the conceding of one or two 
minor points, such as the according of military rank 
corresponding with that held by them in the Austrian 
army to emigres who should volunteer for service with the 
Eagles, and the amnestying of the French deserters. It 
was only at the end of the year 1810, indeed, that the 
prisoners of the Wagram campaign were returned. As 
before with their Ulm comrades, before they recrossed the 
Rhine, the Austrians had to run the gauntlet of Napoleon's 
recruiting agents and crimps. 

Between ten and fifteen thousand Russians were made 
prisoners in the opening skirmishes and combats of the 
Moscow campaign of 1812. Napoleon tried to effect an 
exchange of prisoners with the Russians, and Marshal 
Berthier, the Chief of the Staff of the Grand Army, during 
the advance after the battle at Smolensk, twice sent 
proposals to Barclay, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, 
under a flag of truce : but no notice whatever was taken 
of the proposals ; no reply was forthcoming. The 
prisoners after that were marched across the Niemen — all 
who attempted to escape on the way being ruthlessly shot 
down on the spot. " Tous ceux qui seront trouv^s hors 


du rang chercher a deserter seront fusilles " ran Napoleon's 
pitiless order to the convoy commanders. The Russians 
were then shut up in the fortresses of Dantzic, Modlin, 
Marienburg, and Thorn, and kept there until the late 
autumn of that year, when they were moved on to France, 
to be confined under lock and key in various fortified 
places in Alsace and Lorraine, until, on the advance of the 
Allies in the spring of 1814, they were removed south 
of the Loire. The 5,000 prisoners odd made at Borodino 
and in cavalry affairs round Moscow experienced yet 
worse things. They were started off to France, escorted 
by Spanish and Portuguese troops, on October 13, a week 
before Napoleon evacuated Moscow ; but it is doubtful 
whether a single man of them survived the journey. 
Numbers succumbed to the hardships of the march, dying 
by the wayside from exposure: " ayant jalonne la route 
de leur corps." Others of the ill-fated Russians, who 
could not, or would not, keep up with their convoys, were 
shot like dogs along the road. " On fusillent plusieurs 
qui ne veulent pas marcher," describes one of the French 
officers. A similar doom, as other of the French officers 
in the retreat relate, was the lot of the Russian prisoners 
taken in the first fighting after the Grand Army quitted 
Moscow. When the French columns broke up amid the 
general demoralization, most of the prisoners yet alive 
tried to escape, and were killed, being shot dead in the 

Not very many prisoners, some five thousand all told, 
and most of them Prussians, fell into Napoleon's hands 
during the spring campaign of 1813 in Northern Germany. 
About three thousand of these were taken at Liitzen and 
Bautzen ; the rest were the produce of skirmishes in 
various places, or were picked up as stragglers from Free 
Corps, recruits on the way to camp, or Landwehr militia- 
men intercepted in small parties. 

Napoleon's last great haul of prisoners took place at the 
opening of the autumn campaign of the same year, and 


immediately after the Battle of Dresden. According to 
official returns, now preserved among the archives of the 
Minister of War in Paris, Napoleon held, on November 8, 
ten days before the crowning overthrow of Leipsic, no 
fewer than 23,518 prisoners — Austrians, Russians, and 
Prussians. Some thirteen thousand of these were Aus- 
trians made prisoners in the fighting at Dresden. They 
were paraded in triumph through the city in the evening 
after the battle, when Napoleon made his public entry 
as the victor. This was the scene as the people of Dresden 
saw it. " At 4 p.m., Napoleon, wet to the skin, with the 
famous cocked hat reduced to pulp by the rain and hang- 
ing limply about his ears and about his neck, rode through 
the Dippoldiswalde suburb to the palace. Behind him 
marched 1,000 Austrian prisoners; later on, 12,000 more 
came in from beyond the Weisseritz, including Meszko, 
two other Generals, sixty-four officers of high, and many 
of lower rank. Fifteen Austrian standards were borne by 
the grenadiers of the Old Guard; twenty-six guns, and 
thirty ammunition wagons followed." 

It was intended, though, that there should be yet further 
humiliation for the Dresden prisoners of Napoleon. It 
was proposed to turn them to account in an exceptional 
way. Napoleon specially directed that they should be 
made use of as a kind of advertisement throughout 
France that all was going well with the Grand Army at 
the front. During the first week of October he had the 
prisoners collected from all quarters at Dresden, until the 
whole 23,000 odd were assembled. Orders were issued 
that they should be formed into convoys which were to be 
marched forthwith to France, to be paraded there in 
triumph to the music of drums and trumpets through 
the streets of the principal cities and towns, in order that 
the sight should hearten up the people and restore general 
confidence in the fortunes of the Emperor. 

The prisoners were carefully sorted out and started off 
in separate detachments : first the higher officers, the 


Generals and Colonels by themselves, in batches of twenty 
escorted by gendarmes; then similar convoys of other 
officers, Majors and Captains, and also independent con- 
voys of Lieutenants. The captured soldiers were sent off 
after that, formed in companies of from sixty to a hundred 
men, ten companies being massed as a convoy. To guard 
against attempts at rescue, in the disturbed state of the 
district through which they had to pass in Western Ger- 
many, each convoy was strongly guarded by ten gendarmes, 
twenty dragoons, and sixty infantrymen ; practically one 
guard to every 7 nine prisoners. 

Only a handful of the prisoners, however, crossed the 
Rhine. The convoy escorts were harassed as they passed 
through Saxony by parties of Klenau's dragoons and 
Thielemann's light horse, who, a short time before that, 
had been sent with Platoffs Cossacks to over-run the 
country beyond the Elbe and raid Napoleon's line of 
communications. In these attacks some two-thirds of 
the prisoners were liberated, after which what was left 
of the convoys and their escorts were fallen on as they 
traversed Hesse, where every wood along the main roads 
held sharp-shooters or roving bands of patriot volunteers, 
prowling about to carry on a partisan warfare with the 
French conscript columns and baggage trains on the 
march to the front. Nearly all the remaining prisoners 
were so rescued. Their escorts were dispersed, most of 
the French soldiers being slaughtered there and then, for 
quarter was but rarely given. In a few cases the convoy 
escorts were able to fight their way past their assailants 
until they could take refuge with the nearest French 
garrison, bringing in with them a remnant of their 
prisoners; but not three hundred of the Dresden captives 
ever reached France. 

A number of Austrian prisoners were taken on the first 
day of the fighting before Leipsic. Napoleon kept hold 
of them. They were hastened across the bridge over the 
Elster during the night before the final catastrophe, and 


were carried along with the wreck of the retreating army. 
Some 4,000 more prisoners, Bavarians mostly, together 
with a few Austrians, were taken in the Battle of Hanau 
on the Mayence road, where the Bavarian General Wrede, 
tried to bar Napoleon's way to the Rhine. These 
prisoners reached France, and were sent off to be can- 
toned beyond the Loire with the Russians taken in 
August, 1812. 

Most of them had just got to their destinations when 
hostilities closed in April, 1814. 

The last prisoners made by Napoleon were some 5,000 
Russians, Prussians, and Bavarians, captured from Bliicher 
at the Battle of Champaubert in February, 1814. They 
also were started off for Central France, but they did not 
get very far on their way. The end of the war came 
while they were still slowly dragging their way among 
the disordered French troops which everywhere blocked 
the roads.* 

However abominably on occasion Napoleon dealt with 
many of his British prisoners of war, his treatment of 
them as a whole cannot be compared with the merciless 

* The principal authorities consulted in connection with the fore- 
going chapter are these : " Correspondance de Napoleon " (Military), 
passim; "Correspondance de Roi Joseph," passim; Blaze, " La Vic 
Militaire sous le Premier Empire"; Castellane, "Journal"; Bigarre, 
"Memoires"; Larrey, "Journal"; D'Hauterive, " Lettres d'un 
Chef de Brigade"; Montgaillard, "Hist, de France"; Savary, 
"Memoires"; Girod, " Dix Ans de Souvenirs Militaires"; Percy, 
" Journal "; Gonneville, " Souvenirs "; Thirion, " Journal Historiquc "; 
Miot de Melito, " Memoires"; De Reiset, "Souvenirs "; De Suckow, 
" Fragments de ma vie"; Lahure, "Souvenirs"; Foucart, "Iena"; 
Dupuy, " Souvenirs Militaires "; De Comeau, " Souvenirs des 
Guerres Allemands " ; Hulot, "Souvenirs Militaires"; Girault, " Mes 
Campagnes sous la Republique et 1'Empire"; Berthczene, "Sou- 
venirs Militaires"; Noel, " Souvenirs Militaires"; Brandt, "Souvenirs 
d'un Officier Polonais"; Toreno, " Hist, de la Guerre de la 
Revolution d'Espagne"; Fabry, " Campagne de Russie"; De Cham- 
bra}', " Campagne de Russie"; La Rochechouart, "Memoires"; 
Gourgaud, "Memoires de Napoleon"; Soltyk, "Napoleon en 1812"; 
Vionnet, " Souvenirs d'un Commandant des Grenadiers de la Vieillc 
Garde''; Combes, "Memoires"; Gross, "Souvenirs Inedits dc 


and inhuman ill-usage his captives taken in the wars on 
the Continent had to submit to. Yet, all said and done, 
the lot of Napoleon's British prisoners of war was hard 
enough, exposed as they were to the malice and spite and 
rancorous hate of ill-conditioned and tyrannical depot- 

To that story we now pass. 


NAPOLEON concentrated his British prisoners of 
war in the North and North-East of France, Verdun 
being the head-centre depot. It was the main entrepot, or 
collecting base, whence prisoners of war, as they arrived from 
all quarters, were distributed to their various places of con- 
finement. The officers were mostly kept interned together 
at Verdun, where also most of the midshipmen and the 
merchantship skippers and mates taken by privateers were 
held in captivity. Sailors, naval and merchantship, made 
prisoners at sea by French frigates and privateers, the 
victims of shipwreck, or captured in other ways on the 
shores of the Channel and the Bay of Biscay, in the 
neighbourhood of Toulon and Genoa, or along the Italian 
Mediterranean coast, or got hold of in like manner in the 
Adriatic, as well as the British soldiers captured during 
the Peninsular War in Spain and elsewhere, were first 
of all marched to Verdun, previous to being divided up 
and sent, some to Arras, Valenciennes, and Cambray ; 
others — the bulk of the lower-deck prisoners and rank and 
file — to Givet and Charlemont on the Meuse, close to the 
Belgian frontier ; and, in smaller bodies, to overflow 
depots at Phalsbourg, Sarrebourg, Epinal, Metz, Longwy, 
Briancon, and Nancy. From these depots prisoners who 
were disorderly or attempted to escape were sent to the 
punishment depots of Bitchc, Sedan, or Sarrelouis, for 
rigorous confinement in the dungeons there. Between 
these places shiftings of the prisoners in batches, from 
one fortress to another, were also constantly going on, as 



one means of foiling plots to escape, by preventing the 
prisoners congregating too long and getting to know one 

The British prisoners of war, sailors and soldiers and 
merchantship skippers and seamen, all of these — except 
naval and military officers on parole, who were allowed to 
travel independently* — were tramped across France to 
Verdun in gangs and convoys, escorted by gendarmes or 
soldiers, according to the number of prisoners, being 
passed along in custody from one district to another. 
Under the Napoleonic regime all France was mapped out 
for police purposes in a network of artificial squares, each 
some fifteen or twenty miles wide, and to each of which a 
brigade of gendarmes was allotted. In turn, the several 
districts handed on the prisoner-convoys from one to 
another, each district passing them on to the next adjoin- 
ing along the road. 

Every convoy was mustered and checked off before 
being handed on to its next custodians, also wherever it 
passed the night. " We walked always between twenty 
and thirty miles," describes one captive, " and on entering 
an) - town where we were to pass the night we were drawn 
up in rank and file and called over. . . . The same form 
of calling over took place again next morning." 

Along the road the treatment of the prisoners depended 
entirely on the disposition of the gendarmes, their cus- 
todians — usually rough and brutal fellows. " It was too 
often the case," describes a British naval officer, who, as 
many did, had refused to give his parole, preferring to 
share the lot of his men, in speaking of one detail of a 
march of which he himself was an eye-witness, " that the 

* " Prisoners of war having the rank of officers, as well as hostages 
{detenus)," directed Napoleon in a special decree for British officers, 
dated Paris, August 5, 1811," shall enjoy the favour of proceeding 
freely and without escort to the place assigned to them to reside, and 
shall not be detained by the way on giving their parole not to 
depart from the route marked out for them, or to leave their place 
of residence without authority." 


prisoners, being without shoes, became so lame as to be 
incapable of marching. They were then driven on at the 
point of the sabre, sometimes being dragged along by 
being attached to the horse, and at length, when utterly 
incapable of proceeding, they were deposited in the next 
prison until able to march." 

Small parties of prisoners, up to a dozen in number as 
a rule, were normally escorted by two mounted gendarmes, 
the prisoners being sometimes handcuffed in pairs, and 
even roped together. At night they were locked up in 
barns or disused buildings, " often without roofs, contain- 
ing mud and pools of water," as often as not in the common 
gaols of the towns where they had to halt ; places for the 
most part filthy and damp, foul-smelling, and usually 
swarming with vermin, and sometimes already tenanted 
by French convicts and other criminals, among whom our 
men were thrust indiscriminately. 

Midshipman O'Brien, of the frigate Hussar, wrecked off 
the coast of Brittany in the early part of 1804, in his account 
of how he and the rest of the ship's company were marched 
from Brest to Verdun, relates that in some places, when 
the prisoners complained of the abominable hovels in 
which they were lodged at night, all the answer they got 
was to be sworn at and told that any hole was good enough 
for English dogs like them. In one of the larger towns, 
a fortified place, all of them, he tells us, were thrust into 
the underground dungeons of the citadel. It was bitterly 
cold weather, but so scanty was the supply of straw pro- 
vided for the men's bedding that the officers had to buy 
more at their own expense, and to pay a shamefully 
exorbitant price for it. " In this straw they enjoyed what 
warmth they could, making it into ropes, and twisting it 
round their exhausted limbs and bodies." 

O'Brien also describes how, at some places, when the 
prisoners' convoy with which he was marching arrived at 
their destination for the night before it was dark, they 
were all paraded in the market-place and made a spectacle 


for the people of the town to gloat over and mock at 
before being taken to their quarters in the gaol. He tells 
us further this ugly story of an attempt that was made to 
get his men to turn traitors. It took place at Rouen, in 
the gaol, where the captive crew of the Hussar had been 
shut up on their arrival on the previous evening. " At 
about eleven o'clock some French naval officers came to 
inspect our people, and gave some of them pieces of 
money, with an intention to induce them to enter the 
French service. This I saw, as it was publicly done in 
the gaol-yard, and I happened to be looking out of the 
window at the time. I desired them to be particular in 
what they were about. One man, a Dane (Hendrick 
Wilson, a very fine fellow, upwards of six feet high, who 
had been taken by us and had volunteered into our service), 
replied : ' We will take what money they choose to give 
us, sir, and that shall be all they will gain by coming here.' " 

One shocking display of deliberate barbarity to three 
prisoners who were being marched to Verdun by them- 
selves in charge of a gendarme, is also recorded by Cap- 
tain Sir Jahleel Brenton, of the wrecked frigate Minerve, 
some of whose personal experiences while in captivity are 
related farther on. The three prisoners were a naval 
Captain, a Major of marines, and a Bermuda planter, 
captured while returning to England on board a mer- 

" They were landed at one of the ports of the western 
coast of France, and, notwithstanding their rank in life, 
were marched in the same manner as common seamen 
from brigade to brigade, and like them confined in the 
common prison of the place where they halted for the 
night. Upon one occasion, after being placed in the 
cachot and shown the straw upon which they had to pass 
the night, a fierce mastiff -was brought into the place. 
The prisoners were told that if they lay perfectly quiet 
during the night they would not be molested, but if they 
attempted to get up the dog would seize them ; and as 


proof of this not being mentioned only to alarm them, 
whenever they rustled the straw the dog growled. The 
situation of the prisoners during the long night may be 
imagined. Complaint was made by these gentlemen on 
their arrival at Verdun, but no redress was granted them." 

On the other hand, this in fairness must be said. 

Along the route in many places, we are told, once the 
coast districts had been left behind, the country and 
village people were often disposed to show themselves 
well disposed and indeed hospitable to the British 
prisoners as they passed. In coast towns they were 
often jeered at and abused and even pelted with mud, 
the gendarmes in charge calmly looking on and seldom 
troubling even to remonstrate. Inland, on the contrary, 
compassion for the wretched condition of the prisoners 
was rather the prevailing note among the peasantry, 
their sympathy being accompanied often by acts of 
generosity. The wayside cottage-folk, too, we learn also, 
were not seldom ready to help men who were sick or 
footsore. "The people were kind to our prisoners when 
found lame or sick on the road and incapable of con- 
tinuing their march, taking them into their houses, and 
sending to the nearest gendarmes' post, so as not to be 
accused of harbouring deserters, and to get leave for the 
prisoners to remain till cured." 

The townspeople, also, in whose houses the officers 
were now and again billeted, were ordinarily civil-spoken 
and friendly in their manner; but, as one officer records, 
" with few exceptions their charges for food were out- 
rageous and dishonest." Worse still, in regard to this 
matter of over-charging, were the inn-keepers, when the 
officers were permitted, in some of the smaller towns, 
to lodge for the night at an inn. The inn-keepers, we 
are told, proved, in nine cases out of ten, disgraceful 
rogues, imposing abominably on the prisoners, and reply- 
ing to their protests with insolence and abuse. The 
British officers had to pay the charges, there was no 


help for it : the French Commandants of the escort very 
rarely troubled to intervene or protect those in their 
charge from the shameless fleecing. 

Everything depended on the men put in control of 
the prisoner convoys. Nine out of ten of the gendarmes 
told off to take charge of the smaller parties of prisoners 
showed themselves callous brutes. Very few indeed, 
here and there, treated our men with anything approach- 
ing consideration. In like manner was it with the larger 
prisoner columns, where detachments of regulars, gener- 
ally cavalry, had the escort duty. Some of the officers 
in command, however, proved good-natured fellows, and 
were courteous to the British officers marching with their 
convoys, and humane to the men. One of these last 
Midshipman O'Brien tells us about: an officer of cuiras- 
siers who had charge of the prisoners from the Hussar 
during part of their journey to Verdun. 

" This officer," remarks O'Brien, " appeared to be 
a very affable, good kind of person, of the true old 
French school before the character of the inhabitants 
had been demoralized by the Revolution." The kindly 
cuirassier officer went out of his way on several occasions 
during the march to show friendliness to the prisoners 
under his charge. At one town he gave the midshipmen 
of the party a breakfast at his own expense. " The next 
morning," relates O'Brien, "our kind officer astonished 
us by a most elegant breakfast, consisting of everything 
that the small town could supply. We had made it 
a point never to allow him to pay any of his personal or 
table expenses when he conducted us to an inn, and his 
breakfast was given, I suppose, much to his honour as a 
complimentary requital." 

The gallant French cuirassier showed himself on other 
occasions a kindly and generous man. 

" On our way through the Pas de Calais," continues 
O'Brien, recording another incident of the journey, " the 
road was excessively dirty and bad. Our men were so 


exceedingly weak this day, the weather being very severe 
and raining so incessantly, that our good officer made 
some of his cuirassiers take three or four of their prisoners 
behind on their horses." 

Again, as O'Brien relates, this same officer took the 
midshipmen, on the convoy's arrival in one town, after 
a day of drenching rain, to the best inn in the place, 
where, rinding a large company of townsfolk assembled 
to enjoy themselves in front of a good fire in the biggest 
room of the inn, he made them give way for the lads to 
get close to the fire and dry themselves, afterwards seeing 
that they were provided with a good supper. 

The senior gendarme in charge of each gang of 
prisoners, or senior military officer in charge of the 
convoy, where there were sufficient prisoners to require 
a military guard, carried with him the official dossier, 
or register, of the prisoners, bearing particulars of each 
man set down on paper for the information of the 
Commandant of the depot, for delivery on handing over 
his charge at the " review " of the batch of prisoners held 
on arrival. It was drawn up in this form : 

Name and address of 
prisoner and of his 
parents - - . 

Birth-place and age of 
prisoner - - . 

Name of the ship or 
corps to which he 
belonged - - . 

Rank - - - . 

Corresponding rank in 
the French Army - . 

Date on which he was 
made prisoner, and 
name of place - . 


These ordinarily were in outline the standing orders 
at the different depots for the British prisoners of war, 
as originally issued by the Minister of War in Paris. 
Certain variations were made in the regulations from 
time to time, in regard to matters of detail mostly. They 
need not be gone into here. 

The officers were allowed liberty within the limits of 
the fortresses where they were interned, junior officers, 
who were on restricted parole, being required for the 
first six months of captivity to present themselves at 
" appel " or roll-call at the Hotel de Ville twice a day; 
at eight in the morning and four in the afternoon. They 
were permitted to go about where they liked within 
the town every day, and within certain hours could in 
most places walk for exercise on the ramparts. All had 
to be in their lodgings by nine at night, when the great 
bell of the cathedral or principal church tolled, unless 
specially exempted by the Lieutenant of Police, who 
usually acted at each depot as Second in Command. 
Those allowed outside the fortress walls for the day, 
for sporting or pleasure parties when permitted, had to 
leave their passports at the gate and reclaim them on 
re-entry ; in six hours' time for senior officers, or in four 
hours' or two hours' for others, according to the class 
of prisoner. After the first six months, in the case of 
junior officers, mates, and midshipmen, three calls daily 
were held at 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m., as before. This 
was in order to render escapes more difficult ; it being 
assumed that by that time, as they had become familiar- 
ized with their surroundings, they would get impatient 
at being kept in durance, and would be likely to attempt 
escape. If out of their lodgings at night, the prisoners' 
landlords had to report their absence the first thing next 
morning, under penalty of a fine. Prisoners absenting 
themselves from roll-call were liable to summary arrest 
and confinement to their quarters for periods varying 
from twenty-four hours to eight days, with a fine at 


the discretion of the Commandant. Longer periods in 
close arrest and under sentry were the penalties for cases 
where absentee prisoners gave trouble, short of offering 
violence to the gendarmes sent to find them. Violence 
to a gendarme entailed a sentence of deportation to a 
punishment depot. 

Senior officers on parole — they were all kept at Verdun 
— were after a time exempted from the daily roll-call, and 
had only to sign their names in the Commandant's book 
once every five days. They were allowed to walk or ride 
unattended to a distance of six miles from the gates of 
the fortress, within certain stated hours. The privilege 
was extended to other officers on particular occasions. 

All officers were liable to summary arrest and confine- 
ment for acts considered by the authorities to be a breach 
of parole, at the instance of the Commandant or the 
Mayor. In general they were allowed to occupy their 
time as each might wish. Allowances, ranging from £4 a 
month, as subsistence and lodging-money, were made by 
the French Government to Colonels and Post-Captains of 
the Navy ; and smaller sums to the junior commissioned 
officers, both naval and military. Midshipmen got fifty 
sous daily, and petty officers eleven, down to three sous a 
day for soldiers and sailors and for merchant-ship officers 
and hands ; a sum cruelly inadequate for the poor skippers 
and mates, whose status the French Government refused 
to recognize. Considerable hardship was caused by the 
payments being often in arrear, while, in addition, in some 
cases where the junior officers were concerned, dishonest 
French officials found means of keeping back part of the 
money, coolly cheating their helpless victims who could 
get no redress. 

At first the British prisoners were permitted to corre- 
spond with friends and relatives at home, the letters in all 
cases being sent open, for official perusal at the Ministry 
of War in Paris. The privilege, however, was summarily 
withdrawn in the autumn of 1806, and what private news 


the prisoners got from England after that only reached 
them by surreptitious means, by letters conveyed through 
smugglers to Ostend and across Belgium by means of 
secret agents. Occasionally an English newspaper 
reached them in the same way, but ordinarily they could 
only learn the news of the day from the French papers, 
which were, of course, at that time under drastic censorship. 

Prisoners of the rank and file, soldiers and sailors, naval 
and mercantile, whose conduct justified their being granted 
a species of limited parole, men in particular who had 
trades they could turn to account, might, it was laid down 
in the general regulations issued by the Ministry of War, 
follow their trades at a regular wage with any of the 
tradesmen in the fortress where they were confined who 
would employ them. The prisoners were to be permitted 
also, in some cases, to undertake work in private houses 
in any capacity, " on condition that their employers pro- 
duced them before the authorities on demand." They 
had to return at night and sleep with their comrades in 
the depot barracks, and once every ten days a report 
on these men was to be sent to the Mairie. Also officials 
from the Mayor were at intervals to pay domiciliary visits 
of inspection, at which the prisoners employed, workmen, 
or servants, must be paraded. Part of their earnings the 
prisoners might keep ; the bulk was to go to a general 
Clothing Fund at the Ministry of War for the benefit of 
all the prisoners. So it was laid down on paper in Paris. 

In practice, things were different. The regulations were 
optional for the depot-Commandants to adopt or alter 
according to circumstances, and each Commandant in 
consequence acted very much as he thought fit. 

The greater number of the prisoners in the different 
fortresses were ordinarily — during the earlier years of the 
war certainly — kept within the bounds of their barrack 
squares, unable to get out at all among the townsfolk ; 
guarded by sentries and shut in behind gates under lock 
and key. They had to live through their captivity in 


enforced idleness as best they might, with little to do 
for passing the time, day after day, beyond taking part 
in rough and ready games and sports among themselves — 
gambling, and too often, as we are told, giving way to 
quarrelling and brawling. There were no inducements, 
and next to no opportunities, for the British prisoners 
confined in the French fortress-barracks to work at 
making things for sale, useful articles or nick-nacks, as 
the French prisoners in England did. As to that, indeed, 
also, there were not many of them capable of the kind of 
work, or disposed to occupy themselves with it. The 
prison depots in France, further, were situated in out- 
of-the-way localities, in the poorest parts of the country, 
where there was nobody to buy the men's handiwork, no 
market at all for anything they could make. 

Extra money, it may be added, was on offer to anyone 
who would volunteer to work on Government undertakings 
in the neighbourhood, under the provisions of the War 
Minister's " General Regulations for the Conduct of the 
Prison Depots," one paragraph of which ran as follows: 
" The glorious campaigns of His Majesty the Emperor, 
having accumulated in France an immense number of 
prisoners of war, in order to render useful to the country 
those men whom war has armed against it, His Majesty 
the Emperor has directed that they shall, in so far as is 
practicable, be employed to forward either the public 
v/orks or those of agriculture and the arts." No actual 
or open compulsion was applied in the case of the British 
prisoners in regard to that, as was done in the case of 
Napoleon's Continental prisoners in circumstances pre- 
viously related — and the British prisoners everywhere 
refused to a man to come forward and take a hand in 

" doing jobs that would let the d d frog-eaters off 

to go a-sojering for Boney." So one man in fact is stated 
to have replied to one of the French sergeants constantly 
hanging about at the prison gates to suggest that means 
of putting extra cash in their pockets to prisoners, when 


an attempt was made to induce him to barter his barrack- 
square confinement for paid work in mending a military 
road near by. More about that will be said in due course. 

Napoleon for his part maintained, at any rate at the 
outset of the war, that he was treating his British soldier 
and sailor prisoners with liberality ; providing for their 
support practically on the same scale as for his own army 
in quarters. So he in fact declared in his correspondence 
with the British Government during 1804, when reply- 
ing to complaints from England against certain of his 
prison depot regulations. This is what Napoleon said in 
his answer : " Les prisonniers Anglais sont libres dans les 
citadelles, ils sont casernes comme les soldats ; ils 
recoivent le pain, une paye sumsante, et des effets de petit 
equipement. On leur permet de travailler en ville." 
" Nos prisonniers," he went on to say by way of rejoinder, 
making a reckless and false accusation in his characteristic 
way, " sont entasses en Angleterre d'une maniere si penible 
qu'on les force ainsi, sous peine de vie, a prendre du 
service ; on insulte et on outrage a chaque instant les 
omciers et soldats." That, of course, was an entirely 
imaginary grievance : really it was what was being done 
in France to some of Napoleon's British prisoners. 

Dealing with the complaint that the British prisoners 
were not properly clad for the climate of the places where 
they were confined, to which the British Government had 
added an offer to send over a supply of warm clothing, 
Napoleon loftily made this reply: " De tout temps nous 
avons traite les prisonniers que nous avons eus. Je ne 
veux rien changer. Mon intention est d'habiller les 
prisonniers Anglais. Ils ont une masse comme les troupes. 
Les Anglais doivent en faire autant," he added, hitting 
back. " . . . Je veux que les prisonniers Anglais ne 
coutent rien aux Anglais et que ceux qu'ils pourront me 
faire ne me coutent rien." 

According to the " Etat Actuel de la Legislation sur 
l'Administration des Troupes," issued by the Ministry of 


War in 1809, under the section " Of Prisoners, Foreign 
Deserters, and their Keepers and Under-keepers," this 
distinction was officially drawn between the British and 
Continental prisoners of war : " The English prisoners of 
war belong indiscriminately to the First Class, and are 
allowed, daily, one pound of bread, one ration, vegetables 
and salt, seven centimes and a half in cash." This was 
the regulation allowance for a French private of the line. 
" The prisoners of all other nations," continues the 
Ministerial order, " belong to the Second Class, and 
receive only one half of the pay of the privates of the 
French Army, and one ration of bread each." 

Unfortunately for the British prisoners, Napoleon 
changed his methods not long afterwards, on receiving 
a detailed statement from the Minister of War as to the 
provision made at the various depots. He expressed the 
opinion that the arrangement was too expensive to be 
continued. Henceforward he laid down : "lis ne doivent 
pas etre aussi bien traites que les troupes." Orders were 
issued thereupon to curtail supplies of all kinds, and deal 
with the British soldiers and sailors more economically, 
which entailed many cruel hardships and privations on the 

Under the revised system the clothing served out to the 
prisoners proved often insufficient for health, short in 
supply, and of wretched quality. It comprised, according 
to regulation, " a knitted waistcoat and pantaloons, a 
wagoner's frock, and a hat." " A straw hat per man and 
coarse grey cloth coat and fustian trousers was the kit 
usually supplied," relates one of our officers, " with army 
shoes ; these last generally part-worn army footwear or 
rejected goods from the maker's stores, which the prisoners 
had to patch up or make fit for themselves." Equally 
unsatisfactory was the supply of blankets and bedding. 
" They are to receive," ran the War Minister's general 
order, " one blanket and one paillasse for every two men, 
if they can be provided by the public stores ; if not, they 


are to receive straw, five kilogrammes per man, to be 
renewed every fifteen days." The blankets had been 
usually three-quarters worn out before the prisoners 
received them, coming from the returned-stores depart- 
ment of the French army. The supply of straw for 
bedding was often not sufficient to go round. Had it not 
been for the privately got up subscriptions among the 
officers and wealthier detenus at Verdun, to which all gave 
to the best of their ability, and the additional aid of sums 
of money from a " War Prisoners' Relief Fund " raised in 
England and forwarded by instalments under flag of truce 
from time to time, which reached the depots through the 
Ministry of War in Paris, the mortality among the British 
prisoners of the rank and file during the winter months 
every year from lack of absolute necessaries of life would 
have been 50 per cent, heavier than it actually was. For 
under-clothing the prisoners had to shift for themselves ; 
in effect, to rely on the generosity of their officers and the 
relief fund. 

Little or no barrack-room furniture for their living 
quarters, or culinary utensils even in some cases, was 
found provided for them by prisoners on their arrival at 
their places of confinement. Practically everything — 
forms to sit on, tables for their meals, jugs and mugs, 
kettles and cooking-tins to dress their food in, earthenware 
pans to serve as plates and dishes, and so on, had to 
be procured by the British officers among the prisoners. 
The senior officer in most places contracted for what 
was needed with local tradesmen by means of credit notes 
on the British Government, which were met through 
grants-in-aid sent over at intervals from the Treasury 
in London by arrangement with the authorities in Paris. 
We shall hear more about that again in one of the officers' 
personal narratives. 

This may be added, in conclusion, in regard to the 
general conditions of life among our unfortunate sailors 
and soldiers in France under Napoleon. 


The prisoners at most depots were quartered in localities 
that were unhealthy and bitterly cold in winter, and 
lodged in buildings not always in repair, causing sickness 
to be rife among them ; while many of the weaker men 
contracted diseases that proved fatal. And, as has been 
said, the supply of food was at times neither satisfactory 
nor sufficient. The rations of black bread proved often 
not only short in quantity, but also of bad quality, sour, 
and uneatable ; and the small portion of meat and veget- 
ables provided for the soup maigre on which they had 
to subsist as a principal item of their dinners was poor 
stuff, and unsatisfying for Englishmen accustomed to solid 
food at home. 

To supplement their short commons the hungry men at 
dinner-time daily besieged the barred gates of their 
barrack-yards to buy, as far as their three sous each would 
go, extra food, and drink and tobacco, from the sutlers 
and local small shopkeepers whom the town authorities 
generally permitted to congregate outside and make what 
money they could from the prisoners. Brandy was cheap, 
and the smuggling of it into the prison was not difficult, 
with unfortunate consequences for too many of our poor 
fellows. To drown their sorrows they got drunk, and, in 
addition to quarrelling among themselves, broke out in 
riotous excesses, which sometimes culminated in acts 
of mad insubordination, insulting and attacking their 
French gaolers, in the result bringing down severe punish- 
ment on their own heads ; separate confinement in under- 
ground cells on bread and water, or being marched off, 
sometimes in mid-winter through deep snow, to expiate 
their offences by disciplinary confinement for lengthy 
periods in the dungeons of the penal depots. 


AT Verdun most of the officers were quartered on 
parole, together with a large number of detenus, 
Napoleon's civilian captives. These comprised the 
English travellers — Peers and Members of Parliament 
on holiday, people of fashion, business men, tradesmen, 
officers returning from Egypt or on leave, officials on the 
way home from India, invalids gone abroad for their 
health, and others of all sorts and conditions, many with 
their families — pounced down on wholesale and sum- 
marily arrested by Napoleon's orders in May, 1803, on 
the outbreak of war. They were to be held as "hostages," 
according to the term ("otages") that Napoleon used by- 
way of excuse when ordering them to be taken into 
custody ; as a set-off against the first captures at sea of 
French subjects by Great Britain. With the affairs and 
doings of the Verdun detenus we are here only concerned 
incidentally ; where their experiences affect or have to do 
with the regular prisoners of war. 

This, in general terms, is what the everyday life of the 
place was like, and how the British officers usually passed 
their time. 

" Before the arrival of the English," we are told, "there 
were but three or four good shops ; the others sold ginger- 
bread and fire-matches. The bourgeoises dressed like 
servant-maids ; but soon after their arrival the whole 
town was alive : the shops were ornamented with crystal- 
glass windows, as at Paris, which were filled with jewel- 
lery and the most fashionable articles of dress ; and the 



shopkeepers' wives and daughters were attired in silks and 
muslins." " Verdun," to quote a British naval officer, one 
of the earlier arrivals there as a prisoner, " soon began to 
lose the appearance of a French town ; and many shops 
with English signs and English designations were seen, 
such as, 'Anderson, Grocer and Tea-Dealer, from London,' 
'Stuckey, Tailor and Ladies' Habit-Maker, from London,' 
etc., etc. The Rue Moselle, the principal street in Verdun, 
got the nom de guerre of ' Bond Street,' and was often 
called by the French themselves ' Bon Street.' " Anderson 
and Stuckey, and other English shopkeepers at Verdun, 
were themselves detenus, London tradesmen who had been 
on commercial business in France when the edict was 
issued to arrest all the English in the country. 

With regard to the exorbitant prices charged for every- 
thing, the rapacity of the townsfolk over-reached itself. 
Napoleon himself, indeed, got to hear of the extortionate 
charges during the autumn of 1804, and peremptorily 
directed the town authorities to take action. He had an 
official warning sent from Paris to the Municipality of 
Verdun to the effect that unless it kept down the price of 
lodgings, to take one detail, which had risen from 30 to 
300 francs a month, the English would be sent elsewhere, 
which, of course, would be a serious blow to local trade. 
These were Napoleon's words : " Si les habitants taxent a 
un trop haut prix les logements des Anglais et si la Munici- 
pality ne prend pas des mesures pour que les logements 
qui se louaient 30 francs quand les Anglais sont arrives ne 
soient plus lou£s aujourdhui 300 francs, ils contraindront 
le Ministre de la Guerre a les placer dans une autre 

" There were several clubs at Verdun," describes one of 
the detenus ; " the principal one was the Cafe Caron Club 
— so called from the coffee-house where it assembled. It 
consisted of 120 members, and was the most in the style 
of a club in England. Members were elected by ballot ; 
the price, 6 livres the month; the vacancies in 1805 were 


filled by prisoners of war. In 1807 it was shut up by 
General Wirion, the then Governor of Verdun." 

" Lieutenant Barker, R.N.," continues the writer, re- 
lating incidentally an act of heroism by one of the British 
prisoners, " was a member of this club. Being confined 
by illness to his room, he saw a child fall into the river ; 
regardless of his own health, he sprang into the river and 
rescued the child. Some time afterwards the same gentle- 
man saw a gendarme fall into the Meuse ; he sprang in 
after him and saved him also. These exploits created a 
general and powerful sensation in his favour. The Lodge 
of Freemasons invited Mr. Barker to a fraternal banquet ; 
the Prefect, who resided at Bar, came to Verdun to pay 
him a visit of ceremony, and the public prints all 
highly panegyrized his humanity and courage. Yet for 
three years he was unable to secure his exchange, 
and, we regret to add, he fell in a duel at Verdun in 

During the first four years that Verdun was a prisoners' 
depot, it may be remarked, upwards of a hundred British 
officers and detenus were admitted into the Masonic Lodge 
there, until the authorities discovered that certain of the 
French Masons, as an act of brotherhood, had helped a 
British prisoner to escape. On that the admission of 
British prisoners to the Lodge was prohibited. One 
French Mason, indeed, at the inquiry into the circum- 
stances of the escape of the prisoner referred to, frankly 
declared that if the fugitive had applied to him for help 
he would have felt himself bound to facilitate his getting 

" The second club," to take up again the detenu's narra- 
tive, " was held at Creange's, and afterwards at an 
Englishman's named Taylor. It consisted of about forty 
members, chiefly of the most noisy and dashing young 
fellows of the place. This was an extravagant institu- 

* See the mention of Lieutenant Barker's fatal duel in the narrative 
of Lieutenant R. B. James {post) at p. 156. 


tion, where high play was practised : it was but short- 

" The club at the Bishop's Palace consisted of about 
fifty members, mostly married men, who had their wives 
and daughters at Verdun; and of those bachelors who 
were fond of women's company. A ball or card assembly 
was held alternately every Monday night ; hours as late 
as at London — dinners on Christmas Day, King's Birth- 
day, etc. Mr. Concannon was the life and soul of this 
society. He was also the great promoter of the ' Verdun 

" The fourth club was R 's, on the same plan with 

the last. It also had its balls and card parties. It was 
established to support a family of distinction in distress, 
and ceased in 1805, when this family were inhumanly sent 
away by the detested tyrant, General Wirion. 

" The ' Upper Club,' which took its name from being 
situated in the Upper Town, was founded in 1805 by Mr. 
Stephen Wilson and Mr. Ives Hurry at a very large hotel: 
the apartments would have been thought handsome even 
in St. James's Street." 

In addition to the clubs, as our dcHenu informant relates, 
" a numerous and well selected library was hired from a 
cidevant Abbe\ for the use of the Society, which consisted 
of about 100 members, both detenus and prisoners of war. 
Tea, punch, negus, etc., were supplied, and the profits 
devoted to the support of the family of a respectable 
merchant whose detention occasioned his ruin. He had 
apartments assigned him, and was comptroller of the 

" Each of the clubs was obliged to pay 25 livres per 
month to the poor at Verdun." 

"The establishment of these clubs," the writer of the 
account remarks, " should not be regarded in the same 
light as if they had place in a town of equal size at home. 
It was a luxury in Verdun to have a general place of ren- 
dezvous, where an informer could not easily penetrate, 


and where all the gazettes and pamphlets of the day were 
to be met with. Several individuals who were not flush 
in cash spent their mornings, noons, and nights, by 
the side of a rousing fire, by which means they saved 
the expense of fuel at home, and when disposed to 
retire, a candle-end lighted them to their cheerless 

But there were other features in the social life of the 
prisoners at Verdun which were of a more dangerous and 
pernicious nature. " Happy would it have been," remarks 
our detenu friend, the Chevalier Lawrence, the son of a 
wealthy West Indian planter, and also a literary dilettante, 
trapped in Paris in 1803, " if many of our countrymen 
had never quitted the sober amusements of the club-room 
for the tempting delusions of the gaming-table, which 
were carried to a dreadful excess at this depot. 

" Soon after the arrival of the detenus at Verdun the 
game of Hazard having been introduced at the Caron 
Club, General Wirion sent a gendarme to suppress it ; but 
this act proceeded from the most corrupt of motives : the 
General was resolved that the English should only lose 
their money at the bank in the winnings of which he had a 

" A regular Rouge et Xoir bank was soon afterwards 
established, which was open from one at noon till five, 
and from eight it continued all night ! The sums of 
money lost by the English were considerable. Many lost 
a thousand pounds, others more. Not only men of fortune, 
but Lieutenants of the Navy, midshipmen, and masters of 
merchant vessels were led away by the temptation. Per- 
sons who had never before touched a card in their lives 
were, from want of occupation, from mere ennui, induced 
to risk half a crown, till the passion grew upon them, and 
then, to regain their losings, they plunged deeper and 
deeper into difficulties. Every night some drunken guests 
were decoyed by girls of pleasure, placed for that purpose; 
and to add to the infamy of those who were at the bottom 


of this nefarious institution, the following inscription in 
French was written in large letters : 





" Scenes took place in this house," we are told, " which 
would require the pencil of a Hogarth to depict. Here 
the unwary spendthrift found an elegant supper, heating 
wines, abandoned women — in short, every stimulant to 

The ugly scandal of the detenus' gambling hell at Verdun 
in due course reached Paris. It got to Napoleon's ears 
after his return from the Austerlitz campaign, with the 
result that a War Office order was sent down directing 
the gaming-house to be closed forthwith. The place had, 
however, sufficiently done its evil work for too many of 
the younger men. 

To turn to another phase of life at Verdun among the 
British prisoners. 

By way of out-door diversion, race-meetings were got 
up, a racecourse being " hired and fitted up near the 
village of Charni, with distance-posts, steward's box, etc." 
A pack of beagles also was procured — how, we are not 
informed — which was hunted regularly three times a week; 
a midshipman on horseback dragging a red herring by a 
string was the chase usually. To go out with the hounds 
became, we are told, " a very favourite amusement. A 
motly group followed, consisting entirely of prisoners of 
every description ; sometimes as many as forty horsemen 
were seen in the field. It was an amusement eagerly 


followed up, and seemed to break the monotony of a 
prisoner's life, being something to look forward to. The 
General, in allowing the exercise of hunting, granted a 
rayon of two leagues on each side of Verdun ; but this 
was followed by the necessity each prisoner was under of 
signing his name in a book kept for the purpose in an 
office at Verdun twice in the course of the day — viz., once 
between eight and ten in the morning, and again between 
two and four in the afternoon. Those who wished to 
hunt took care, therefore, to sign as early as they could 
in the morning, and, provided they could ensure returning 
before four, they felt secure as to their last signature." 

Theatricals, cock-fighting, and duck-hunting, and pic- 
nics in the summer among the woods within the two 
leagues' limit, and driving-out parties with the ladies of 
the families of the detenus, were other ways of passing the 
time adopted by many of the better off of the officer- 

There were, of course, at the same time many quiet 
men at Verdun among the prisoners, some of whom occu- 
pied their enforced leisure in pursuits of a different kind : 
in naturalist rambles, for example, or botanizing in the 
neighbouring fields. One naval officer — Lieutenant 
Tuckey of the Calcutta — who was captured in 1805, and 
had to stay at Verdun until 1814, gave up his time to 
writing a bulky three-volume work on maritime geography, 
which he published in England on the restoration of peace. 
A Captain Molyneux exercised his inventive faculties in 
constructing a carriage " propelled by sails, which could 
run at seven or eight miles an hour." Its evolutions, 
however, frightened horses on the high road, and one day 
it ran into a cart and upset it, after which the peasants 
took to stoning the inventor when they met him out on 
his runs. The experiments were finally stopped by the 
Governor's order. Captain Molyneux also invented an 
ice-boat with sails, and had some spins with it on the 
frozen Meuse in winter. 


" Playing, dancing, drinking, and singing all day long," 
is one description of the general life led by the British 
prisoners given by an outsider who visited Verdun. Said 
another, who passed through Verdun in 1810, of the life 
among the prisoners : " Young Englishmen are much the 
same, whether prisoners or at home — playing, driving, 
and shooting each other." As to that last matter, un- 
fortunately, as one result of the general idleness of the 
life led by many, and their reckless, wild ways, duels were 
of frequent occurrence; several British officers, indeed, 
lost their lives at Verdun at the hands of brother-officers. 
Duelling was permitted by the French authorities. " A 
prisoner of war may fight a duel," notified Napoleon in so 
many words to the Governor of Verdun, on the circum- 
stances of one of the Verdun encounters where the sur- 
viving principal had been placed in confinement being 
brought under his notice. 

One of the hardships most keenly felt and resented was 
the stoppage of all correspondence with friends in England. 
At first, subject to the usual conditions of liability to 
inspection en route, prisoners' letters had been allowed to 
pass to and fro whenever a cartel was exchanged between 
England and France. All that had to be done was the 
sending of them open to the Ministry of War in Paris. 
Napoleon, however, interposed, and ruthlessly stopped all 
private correspondence with England after the break-down 
of the peace negotiations in 1806. From that time onward 
he prohibited under severe penalties the sending of letters, 
directing that all which were intercepted should be de- 
stroyed, and the writers, if in France, punished. There 
only remained after that " under-ground " methods of 
transmission — getting letters smuggled over surrepti- 
tiously ; but the system was untrustworthy, difficult, and 
very expensive. The cost, indeed, of " squaring " officials 
at Verdun, and buying the services of other intermediaries 
elsewhere, was prohibitive for all except the best off among 
the prisoners. 


From the first, of course, English newspapers were not 
to be got, except by stealth, and only now and then. 
That was another great deprivation for the Verdun 
prisoners, who had consequently to rely for intelligence of 
what was going on in the world outside on what meagre 
odds and ends of news were permitted to appear in the 
columns of the official Moniteur, after being " doctored " 
under the drastic editorship of an official at the Ministry 
of Police. 

Remittances sent privately from friends in England to 
prisoners, to supplement the pittance of pay doled out by 
the French Government, were also stopped after 1806. 
Even the transfer of bills of exchange was prohibited, 
and the French bankers were forbidden to discount the 
prisoners' drafts on London. The order had to be modified 
later, and certain of the restrictions taken off; but most of 
the prisoners were unable to get money, and had to run 
into debt with those of the local people who would trust 
them on the strength of promises of repayment when 
peace was restored. A considerable proportion of the 
junior officers had to be helped, as a fact, from time to 
time, both for their subsistence and their lodgings, by 
means of subscriptions got up on their behalf among the 
senior officers and wealthier detenus. In the end, there 
being no other way out of the difficulty, Napoleon had 
further to permit money collected by benevolent associa- 
tions in England for the distressed English prisoners in 
France of all ranks and classes to be sent over, an official 
agent being appointed in Paris by whom funds were for- 
warded to Verdun and elsewhere. 

At Verdun also, an English naval surgeon, a Dr. Davis, 
was tireless in generously assisting his poorer fellow- 
countrymen with gratuitous medical treatment, and 
clergymen of the Church of England among the detenus, 
two in particular, Messrs. Maude and Jorden, laboured 
incessantly in evangelistic work, holding mission services, 
specially for the young, in a disused building, the " Old 


College " hall. They solemnized marriages also both 
among the families of the detenus and between some of the 
British officers and the daughters of certain French resi- 
dents of Verdun. In regard to these marriages, un- 
fortunately, legal difficulties were raised at a later date, 
after the restoration of peace between England and 

Efforts were made also by some of the senior officers, 
headed by Captain Brenton, a man of deeply religious 
character, to protect from their evil surroundings many 
of the younger officers who were amenable to guidance 
and higher influences. Through Brenton's instrumen- 
tality a school was opened to carry on the instruction 
of the midshipmen prisoners at Verdun, as at sea, in 
navigation and theoretical seamanship, so that when 
their time for liberation came they might be ready to 
qualify for promotion. By that means it was further 
hoped, incidentally, to occupy their minds and keep 
the lads from getting into trouble through having too 
much idle time. 

For the use of the British prisoners in general at the 
different depots the Bible Society in London sent out 
in 1813 under a flag of truce several boxes of Bibles, 
but, as far as is known, the consignment only got as 
far as Morlaix in Brittany, where the boxes were landed 
and stopped by the Custom-house officials. In the 
Museum of the United Royal Service Institution, White- 
hall, is preserved as a curiosity a copy of the Book of 
Common Prayer, of which Napoleon is stated to have 
had an edition specially printed for distribution in the 
British prisoner-depots. 

The Commandant of the fortress and the prisoner- 
depot between 1804 and 1809 was General Wirion. 
There is nothing too bad that the Verdun prisoners can 
say about him. One British officer, writing in 1814 
on his return to England after several years captivity 
at Verdun, speaks of " the multifarious instances of 











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knavery and extortion, fraud, insolence, and despotism, 
practised by the ever execrable Wirion and his vulgar 
spouse." " During the reign of that contemptible 
tyrant," he goes on to say, "there was nothing odious 
in power abused by vulgar hands, nothing base in mean- 
ness or rapacity, but what was exercised with impunity 
against the feelings, property, and persons of the detenus 
and prisoners of war." 

These are some of the things that the British at Verdun 
have recorded against General Wirion. 

He would constantly, we are told for one thing, coolly 
turn up at, or arrange to be invited to, the private dinner 
parties and social entertainments given by the wealthier 
detenus, simply in order to make money at the card- 
play which went on at those gatherings after dinner, 
going home, it is more than hinted, with his pockets 
filled by barefaced cheating. There was, indeed, really 
no safe way of keeping the Governor out. It was always 
within his power, and Wirion had no scruple in exercising 
his authority, to commit any person who incurred his 
disfavour to the dreaded dungeons of Bitche or Sedan. 

Speaking of the General's appearance at dinner parties 
and private card parties, this is what one of the Verdun 
prisoners records : " Even those amusements were not 
allowed to pass unalloyed by the vile despotism of 
General Wirion and his lady, who either obtruded their 
detested presence, or maliciously contrived, if uninvited, 
to render miserable those who attended or gave these 
feasts." The prisoners had to " allow him to win from 
them at cards in order to obtain small favours or to avoid 
being sent to Bitche, to which they were liable at his 
mere caprice." 

From the public gaming-tables, according to one of 
the detenus, Mr. Charles Sturt, a Dorsetshire squire, 
Wirion regularly made from 600 to 1,000 francs a month ; 
his commission on the profits of the establishment. 

Complaints to Paris of what went on under the 


Wirion regime proved unavailing, until, in 1809, General 
Clarke, Due de Feltre, was appointed Minister of War, 
replacing Wirion's patron, Marshal Berthier. Berthier 
had been a personal friend of Wirion's, who, indeed, owed 
his appointment to Verdun to that Marshal, and every 
complaint from the British prisoners which managed 
to get to the Ministry of War — the majority of them 
were burked at Verdun — all the letters that got through 
by roundabout channels, on reaching Berthier's hands, 
were either pigeon-holed or burnt, no notice what- 
ever being taken of them. General Clarke, having no 
reason to shield Wirion, and becoming aware that a 
rumour of Wirion's misconduct had reached the Tuileries, 
summoned the Governor of Verdun to Paris and had his 
conduct investigated by a Court of Inquiry. Wirion 
committed suicide, before the Court reported, in the Bois 
de Boulogne on April 7, 1810. 

Records the Police Bulletin, a document confidentially 
compiled and presented daily for Napoleon's perusal, 
under the date " April 8 ": " General Wirion went yester- 
day morning at 10 o'clock in a hackney coach to the 
Bois de Boulogne. Alighting a few yards from the 
Porte Maillot, he blew out his brains. A letter to his 
wife was found upon him, and another to a doctor, 
asking him to attend to her in the sad circumstances. 
It appears that impatience at the apparent tardiness of 
the commission deputed to investigate the complaints 
against him was the reason of the General's suicide."* 

During General Wirion's term of command, 1806, 
Napoleon's " Irish Legion " marched through Verdun 
on its way to join the Grand Army in Germany. To 
prevent an outbreak among the British prisoners, which 
the sight of traitors parading through their midst 
threatened to provoke, Wirion, with the fear of Napo- 
leon's anger if there was trouble before his eyes, had 

* I am indebted for this to Mr. Alger's book on the detenus: 
" Napoleon's British Visitors and Captives." See also (post) p. 231. 


the time of the Irishmen's approach kept secret, and, 
arranging for them to arrive after dark, he billeted them 
in a village at some distance outside the fortress gates. 
The band of the Irish Brigade, however, gave the General 
away next morning. "At daybreak," relates one of the 
Irishmen, Myles Byrne, describing how the Legion 
continued its journey, " he had the drawbridge let down 
and the gates opened to let the Legion pass through 
before the English prisoners could see and have light 
to contemplate our green flag and its beatific inscription, 
so obnoxious to them, ''The Independence of Ireland.' 
Our march, however, through the town at that early 
hour attracted great notice. As our band played up 
our national air of ' Patrick's Day in the Morning,' we 
could see many windows open and gentlemen in their 
shirts inquiring across the street in good English what 
was meant by music at such an early hour." 

Another French Governor, the Colonel in command 
of the prisoner-depot at Arras, acted in much the same 
way for a similar reason when the Irish Legion passed 
through that fortress. " The Governor," Myles Byrne 
again relates, " had the good sense to make the English 
sleep one night in the citadel, until we marched through 
in the morning." 

This incident is an instance of the barbarous treatment 
which the Verdun gendarmes under the Wirion regime 
were ready to inflict on the British prisoners, often on no 
provocation at all. It is recorded by a midshipman 
(Edward Boyes) as having happened to himself. 

" Four of us were rambling about the country with a 
pointer and silken net, catching quails, when the gun was 
tired (as a signal of someone having escaped). On our 
return, in passing through the village of Tourville, we 
were surprised by two gens-d' amies, one of whom instantly 
dismounted and seized me. Uttering the most blas- 
phemous epithets, he tied my elbows behind, and then, 
slipping a noose round my bare neck, triced me up to the 


holsters of his saddle, remounted, and returned with his 
prize to the town, exulting in his cowardly triumph and 
pouring forth vollies of vulgar abuse ; every now and then 
tightening the cord, so as to keep me trotting upon the 
very extremity of the toes to obtain relief ; then again 
loosening it, as occasional guttural symptoms of strangu- 
lation seemed to indicate necessity. . . . My companions 
were secured round the middle, with the utmost violence 
and brutality; and thus we were conducted to town." 
No redress whatever was forthcoming. 

Under Colonel Courcelles, Wirion's successor, who held 
the Governorship of Verdun for two years, things were 
really but little better. Courcelles, as one of the British 
officers remarks, " was a creature w r ho trod in the vile 
steps of his predecessor." His mode of action differed — 
that was all. In place of Wirion's open scoundrelism he 
adopted underhand methods, victimizing in particular the 
poor junior officers, as being the easiest prey. 

" During the reign of those two miscreants," says a naval 
officer among the prisoners, " it was in vain, or it was 
dangerous, in any individual to attempt to convey a state- 
ment of his wrongs, however grievous, to the ear of the 
Ministers. It was intercepted by the agents of the petty 
despots of Verdun, or passed over without attention ; and 
not few were the instances wherein the complainants 
were made to feel the dark and cowardly revenge of which 
their base and contaminated minds were so eminently 
susceptible." In spite, however, of the precautions that 
Courcelles and his underlings took to keep their roguery 
quiet, information of their malpractices reached Paris in a 
form which required official action to be taken. Colonel 
Courcelles was summarily dismissed in consequence, and 
his principal assistant, the Lieutenant of Police, whom the 
mean and cowardly Governor threw over and put forward 
as being primarily responsible for what had been done, 
shot himself in the fortress ditch beyond the ramparts of 


The Courcelles scandal, following the Wirion scandal, 
proved in the outcome a blessing for the prisoners. They 
woke the Ministry of War up to a sense of its duty, and 
after that, as far as their Governors went, the Verdun 
prisoners enjoyed an ideal time. Two officers of excep- 
tional character held the command in turn during the 
next three years ; until the depot itself ceased to exist. 
Under them the British prisoners had little to complain 
about in regard to their personal treatment. 

This, indeed, is what the naval Lieutenant, whose con- 
demnation of Wirion and Courcelles has been quoted, 
writing on his return to England in 1814, says of them : 
" The Baron de Beauchesne succeeded the infamous 
Courcelles ; of the former it is difficult to speak too 
highly. It was an angel presiding where a fiend had 
ruled before. Full of generosity, honour, and dignity, 
this worthy nobleman in every respect was the reverse 
of his base predecessors. When he died, which was early 
in 1813, his death was deeply and generally deplored by 
the detenus and officers, who raised six thousand francs to 
rear a monument to his memory in token of their love and 

Warm as that eulogy is, our naval friend goes still 
farther in speaking of the Baron de Beauchesne's 

Of Major de Meulan, the last Governor of Verdun 
during the war, the writer cannot say too much. " I dare 
with confidence," he declares, " anticipate the general 
voice of my countrymen, who, when they shall read this 
unbought tribute of respect, will unanimously admit its 
justice. Accessible to the meanest individual; dignified, 
yet unassuming ; he was distinguished more by the 
urbanity of his manners and integrity of his mind than 
by the glare of official pomp. 

" When our officers broke their parole," continues the 
writer, " which from the fear of a gaol was sometimes the 
case, and were retaken, this generous man never failed to 


mitigate, if not totally remit, their punishment ; and not 
unfrequently procured their re-admission to the comforts 
of parole by becoming personally responsible for their 
future conduct. He kept within proper bounds the gen- 
darmes, whose insolence and rapacity had been so severely 
felt under the infamous patronage of Wirion and Cour- 
celles. . . . Towards many a friendless officer has he 
acted the part of an affectionate brother ; towards many 
an unguarded youth, exposed in a peculiar manner at 
Verdun to the most dangerous seductions, has the brave 
and good de Meulan displayed the tenderness and solici- 
tude of a parent, and snatched them from impending ruin 
and indelible disgrace. ... It was impossible," the 
writer goes on, " to know such a man without loving 
him. How often have we regretted that the just war we 
waged should oblige us to call him an enemy. Should he 
ever visit this happy and envied island, I am sure there is 
not an officer or detenu, naval or military, who would not 
vie with each other in demonstrations of the warmest 
regard and sincerest attachment." That at any rate, after 
what has been said of Wirion and Courcelles, is pleasant 
enough to hear. 

Throughout their captivity, till nearly the last, the 
prisoners, from all accounts, persistently buoyed them- 
selves up with hopes that they would obtain their freedom 
at a not distant date ; ever anticipating their exchange for 
French prisoners in England. It proved a futile hope, of 
course, but from time to time there seemed more than 
a possibility of its fulfilment. 

A reference to the various efforts made by the British 
Government to bring Napoleon to reason in this matter, 
affecting as they did in a special degree the Verdun 
prisoners, may be added in this connection. 

Two attempts to effect an exchange of prisoners were 
made by the British Government within a few months of 
the opening of hostilities. In 1804 a third attempt was 
made. " In order to lessen the evils of war and consult 


the interests of humanity," ran the official note presented 
to the French Government, making reference to the two 
previous failures, " His Majesty had twice invited the 
French Government to accede to the principle of a general 
cartel on the bases of that which existed between the two 
nations in the last war."* In response there came from 
France a show of entertaining the proposals that England 
put forward, but neither side was genuinely in the mood 
to meet the other half-way. Napoleon insisted that the 
Hanoverian troops which had had to lay down their arms 
on the occupation of Hanover by the French in the pre- 
vious year, and had been disbanded, must be classed as 
British prisoners in any exchange ; which arrangement 
would have liberated a large additional number of the 
French prisoners in England. The British Government, 
on its side, demanded as a preliminary the unconditional 
sending back of the detenus, maintaining that they were in 
no sense prisoners of war. Indeed, said the Foreign 
Office, as a set-off against them, the British Government 
had already liberated, as " non-combatants," no fewer 
than 526 French subjects, civilian passengers in captured 
merchantmen and French traders in England. In addi- 
tion, the immediate return of certain individual officers 
detained in France was claimed, their detention being, 
it was put forward, contrary to the laws of war. Three 
officers were specifically named — a naval Lieutenant named 
Dillon, arrested when entering Helvoetsluys with a flag of 
truce, and sent to Verdun ; Captain Brenton of the Minerve, 
in exchange for whom a French naval Captain had been 
released some time previously; and Captain Wesley 

* There was yet another attempt at bringing about an exchange 
in 1804. Nelson, while blockading Toulon on hi> own account, sent 
in a letter to Latouche Treville, the Admiral commanding there, 
proposing an exchange of prisoners. It was forwarded to Napoleon, 
who made this reply, throwing the blame, as usual, on the other 
side : " Faites lui connaitre que tout echange est impossible : que le 
roi d'Angleterre n'a voulu en etablir aucun, ayant peisiste a y mettre 
des conditions inusitees et arbitrages." 


Wright, also of the Navy, who was being kept in close 
confinement in the Temple in Paris under circumstances 
of peculiar cruelty. Meeting the British demands with 
an evasive reply, the French advanced a fresh demand of 
their own for the unconditional liberation of certain over- 
sea garrisons which had surrendered on terms not observed, 
as they said, by the British : at San Domingo, St. Lucia 
and Tobago in the West Indies, and at Pondicherry in 
India. With that spirit on both sides no agreement could 
be come to, and Napoleon thereupon closed the negotia- 
tions, roundly declaring that he would exchange no British 
prisoners at all. 

Again, in 1806, in the year after Trafalgar, there seemed 
another chance for the British prisoners in France when 
the Fox Ministry attempted to arrange a settlement with 
Napoleon. This time a few of the detenus of social posi- 
tion, mostly political friends of the Ministry of the day in 
England, were released, and some half-dozen naval officers 
in exchange for French officers of equivalent rank. Napo- 
leon's terms, however, were again too unreasonable, and 
the negotiations were abruptly broken off. 

Once more, in 1810, the prisoners' hopes were raised, 
when yet another effort was made to bring about a general 
exchange. There were in France at the time, according 
to the official figures, 11,458 British prisoners of war, in 
addition to some 500 detenus of both sexes and all ages. 
Beyond these there were altogether in Napoleon's hands 
about 66,000 other prisoners belonging to Continental 
nations in active alliance with Great Britain — Spaniards 
and Portuguese — making with the British a grand total of 
some 78,000 prisoners to the credit of France. Across 
the Channel, in the English prisoner-depots, were 64,770 
French prisoners of war, including Italians and soldiers 
of the tributary German States, besides 2,294 Danes, 103 
Dutchmen, and 302 Russians taken mostly at sea; making 
in all a total of 67,500 soldiers and sailors. Napoleon at 
the outset this time professed eagerness for an exchange ; 


but from quite early in the negotiations it proved impos- 
sible to pin him down to any straightforward arrange- 

He claimed first of all that the detenus of all kinds — old 
people, women and children — should be reckoned for ex- 
change as equivalent to their numbers in French soldiers 
and sailors. The point was conceded by the British 
Government, desirous of doing anything that might lead 
to peace ; and after considerable discussion the following 
tariff of equivalents was agreed to : 

" The Earl of Beverley (the most prominent peer de- 
tained in France since the release of Lord Elgin and the 
Earl of Yarmouth during the negotiations of 1806) to be 
exchanged for a general officer of the highest rank of the 
prisoners now in England. 

" Peers' sons and Privy Councillors to be exchanged 
against Colonels or naval Captains. 

" Baronets and Knights to be exchanged against Field- 
officers and Commanders. 

" Gentlemen holding no distinction of rank to be 
reckoned as equivalent to Captains in the army and Lieu- 
tenants of ships of war. 

" Tradesmen (petite bourgeoisie), servants, etc., and all 
others detained, to count as equal to the rank of private 
soldiers and sailors." 

" Recourse," it was added in a note, " shall be had 
to this principle of making up numbers by affixing a 
numerical value to rank only in the event of the failure of 
individuals who might be exchanged rank for rank against 
one another." 

It was arranged that the balance against France should 
be made good by Napoleon sending back to Spain his 
Spanish prisoners until the total of the FrSfch prisoners 
in England had been reached. 

Then came the first hitch. The British Government 
were wide awake to the character of the man they were 
dealing with, and required guarantees. In the discussion 


as to these Napoleon coolly demanded that all his men 
should be sent over en bloc at the outset, in exchange for 
the English prisoners in France by themselves ; that all 
the French soldiers and sailors in captivity should be 
released simultaneously with the twelve thousand English. 
After that had been done, he said, he would proceed to 
release the Spaniards he held. Napoleon plainly had it 
in mind, there was little doubt, to repeat the trick with 
which he had already victimized Austria and Russia, as 
has been told. But Napoleon was dealing with cool- 
headed opponents, and in different circumstances. Mindful 
of what had taken place in Europe, the British Govern- 
ment drew back and indignantly protested, threatening to 
break off the negotiations. " An exchange, of course," 
comments one of the London newspapers, " could not be 
assented to upon this principle ; the effect of which would 
be to supply the enemy with sailors sufficient to man 
25 sail of the line at least, and which would leave our 
allies, the Spaniards, still in the hands of Bonaparte ; for 
there is no one acquainted with his character who would 
believe that he would release a man of them." 

Napoleon then shifted his ground, with the result that 
again an agreement was come to on paper for a general 
exchange of prisoners in equal numbers. " All British, 
Spaniards, Portuguese, Sicilians, Hanoverians, and others, 
subjects of or in the service of Great Britain," ran its 
terms, " and all French, Italians, and other persons, sub- 
jects of or in the service of France, etc., Italy, all Dutch 
and Neapolitans, and all others, subjects of or in the 
service of the Powers allied to France, shall be released 
without exception." They were to be exchanged simul- 
taneously, it was agreed, in batches of a thousand at a 
time on each side. After the British prisoners in France 
had all been sent over in that manner against an equal 
number of French prisoners, also all delivered, the 
Spaniards were to be returned by sea to Vigo and Cadiz, 
the Portuguese to Lisbon, and so on, all in batches of a 


thousand at a time in exchange for batches of 1,000 French 
prisoners, until the depots everywhere had been cleared out. 

Again, though, at the last moment, there came a hitch, 
which this time resulted in the final breaking off of the 
negotiations. The trouble was over the exchange of 
certain officers. A considerable number of French officers 
of rank, as an act of courtesy and goodwill, while the 
negotiations were in progress had been allowed to go 
back to France from the prisoner-depots in England, on the 
understanding that British officers of similar rank would 
be released immediately the French officers had reported 
their arrival in Paris. None, however, came. Not a single 
British officer in France was sent back. And then Napo- 
leon, in response to a reminder from London, calmly 
announced that he did not propose to consider his re- 
turned officers as requiring any exchange. That flagrant 
act of bad faith exhausted the patience of the British 
Government, and the negotiations were broken off forth- 
with, after having dragged out for nearly three-quarters 
of a year — during eight weary months of hope deferred for 
the British captives at Verdun and elsewhere. 

During 1812 a small number of the British prisoners at 
Verdun obtained their liberty in exchange for certain of 
the principal French officers captured by Sir Rowland 
Hill at Arroyo dos Molinos in Spain. Prince D'Arem- 
burg, one of the Princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, 
and a member by marriage of the Imperial family, was 
among the French chiefs taken on the occasion, the 
" great card," as one of Wellington's officers styled him. 
To get back the Prince in particular, and certain other 
officers he wanted for special reasons, Napoleon, when 
setting out for Russia', consented to an exchange of 
prisoners on fair terms, but it was only on the very small 
scale mentioned — a few officers on either side. 


THIS is a glance at some things that took place 
among the sailors and soldiers in custody at Givet 
on the Meuse, a fortress in the extreme north of France, 
close to the Belgian frontier, which was the principal 
depot for the British captives of the rank and file and 
lower deck. 

" Givet," describes Midshipman O'Brien, of the Hussar, 
" is a fortified town in the Department of Ardennes 
and Bishoprick of Liege, divided by the Meuse. That 
portion on the south side of the river is called ' Little 
Givet.' This town is commanded by a very strong fort 
and citadel (Charlemont), built upon an immense rock: 
the fortifications were constructed by Vauban. A com- 
munication between ' Great ' and ' Little ' Givet is kept up 
by means of a pontoon bridge ; the centre boats are placed 
so as to be hauled out occasionally to admit vessels to pass 
up and down, which frequently happens. The people 
appeared very much disposed to be friendly with us, but 
we were kept so very close and strict that it was impos- 
sible to form any acquaintance." 

Some fifteen hundred prisoners was the normal estab- 
lishment at Givet ; surplus prisoners, on the arrival of 
fresh batches, being drafted mostly to Arras, Cambray, or 
Valenciennes. Refractory prisoners and those recaptured 
after escapes were sent, as usual at all the depots, to Bitche, 
Sedan, or Sarrelouis. 

Givet was set apart for its special purpose in the first 
year of the war, huge barracks being prepared there for 



the reception of the prisoners, with spike-topped walls all 
round and iron-barred gates. The barracks were not quite 
ready when, at the end of December, 1803, the first set of 
British prisoners arrived, four hundred in number: the 
crew of Captain Jahleel Brenton's frigate, the Minerve, 
stranded off Cherbourg some five months before. They 
arrived without their officers, Captain Brenton and his 
Lieutenants and midshipmen having been held back among 
the officer-prisoners at Verdun, in accordance with a harsh 
and unnecessary regulation of the French War Office, 
which caused trouble and much suffering among the men. 
Captain Brenton, who received special permission a few 
weeks later to visit his men, taking with him money he 
had previously received through Paris from the British 
Government as a grant in aid, in order to try and 
improve the arrangements made for the prisoners (how 
he came to get the leave will be related in the Captain's 
general narrative of his experiences in France), gives this 
very interesting description of what he was able to accom- 
plish at Givet. He tells the story in the official report 
that he drew up and was permitted to forward through 
the Ministry of War in Paris to the Transport Board in 
London, the department specially concerned with prisoners 
of war, alike the French prisoners in England and the 
British prisoners in France. The Minerve's men, on their 
reaching Givet, had been confined, until the prison-barracks 
were ready for their accommodation, in the underground 
dungeons of Charlemont, a noisome and unhealthy place. 
Their imprisonment in that manner was in fact the prime 
reason of Brenton's request to be allowed to go and see 
his men. 

" Upon my arrival at Charlemont," says the Captain, 
" I found orders had been received there for the prisoners 
to be removed to the great barracks at Givet, upon the 
banks of the Meuse, in a healthy, good situation. They 
are divided into rooms containing twenty men each, with 
brick floors. The rooms are, however, comfortable, 


spacious, well shaped, perfectly clean, with a good chim- 
ney in each. As no furniture of any kind is allowed 
them, I have hired ten bedsteads for each room. The 
bedstead, with a palliasse, is sufficient for two men. For 
the bedstead and palliasse I paid ten sols (sous) per month. 
The prisoners are allowed a blanket by the French 
Government, in addition to which I have furnished them 
with others. I consider this arrangement as better than 
purchasing bedding, which would create a great expense, 
and, in the event of the depot being changed, be impossible 
to carry. 

" The prisoners are allowed by the French Government 
three sols a day, one pound and a half of bread, a bundle 
of straw, and a small quantity of wood. The latter is by 
no means sufficient to dress their victuals, and a part of it 
has always been stopped to pay for hire of kettles to dress 
their meat, and earthen pans to put it into when cooked. 
In order to prevent the stoppage taking place in the quan- 
tity of fuel, I have also hired a kettle, jug, and two earthen 
pans for each room, which cost thirty sols a month." 

With the sanction of the depot-Commandant at Givet, 
a regular system of internal economy and discipline was 
introduced among the prisoners by Captain Brenton. 

The French Government allowance, he arranged, should 
be paid in a lump sum to the mates, or senior seamen, in 
charge of the barrack-rooms, for them to lay out on vege- 
tables and every-day necessaries as might be required; 
each mate acting for the men immediately under him. 

" Well aware," proceeds Captain Brenton, "that by put- 
ting any sum into the hands of seamen, it might in many 
instances occasion intoxication and improper conduct, and 
that by supplying clothing only, without adding to their 
allowance of provisions, I should have defeated His 
Majesty's most gracious intentions of succouring his dis- 
tressed subjects, as their clothes would have been sold to 
supply their wants, I have judged it necessary ... to 
continue their daily allowance, viz., six sols each, to the 


people belonging to His Majesty's vessels and packets, four 
sols to those belonging to the merchant service, and three 
sols to boys. I have contracted with a butcher at Givet 
to supply them with half a pound of good meat a day, at 
two sols per pound below the market price, which he 
brings to them every morning at nine o'clock and dis- 
tributes to the several rooms." The mates, Captain 
Brenton directed, were to inspect the men's clothing 
every week, and in cases where any part of their kit w r as 
missing, and was not satisfactorily accounted for, the 
owners were to be put under stoppages of pay until the 
missing articles had been found or replaced at the cost of 
the man concerned. 

A non-combatant officer of the Minerve was sent for 
from Verdun by Captain Brenton, and put in general 
charge of the prisoners at Givet. " In order to ensure 
obedience to these regulations, regularity in the payment, 
and good order in general," reported the Captain to the 
Transport Board, " I have placed Mr. W. T. Bradshaw, 
acting-clerk of the Minerve, a young man of excellent 
character, as superintendent, who will pay particular 
attention to the comfort and good order of the people." 

He added this, on his return to Verdun, in regard to 
Captain Petervin, the then Commandant of the depot at 
Givet, by means of whose friendly co-operation Brenton 
was able to make his arrangements : " I feel it a pleasing 
duty to say that the prisoners are treated with the utmost 
kindness and attention by the French officer charged with 
their superintendence, from whom I have received every 
possible assistance and indulgence in the performance of 
my duty ; and it is with the most heartfelt satisfaction 
I can state that His Majesty's most gracious bounty has 
been attended with the happiest effects, and that I left 
my countrymen on the 16th inst. (January, 1804) cheerful, 
contented, and grateful in the highest degree." 

Things seem to have gone satisfactorily for the prisoners 
at Givet as long as Captain Petervin remained Com- 


mandant, throughout a great part of the year 1804. More 
prisoners kept coming in from time to time, the arrivals 
next following the men of the Minerve being the crews of 
the Shannon, wrecked off Cape La Hague in December, 
1803, and of another British frigate, the Hussar, wrecked 
off Ushant in March, 1804. 

Unfortunately for the prisoners, Captain Petervin was 
ordered elsewhere in the autumn of 1804, and thereupon 
a regular reign of terror set in at Givet. The second 
Commandant proved to be a harsh tyrant of the Wirion 
stamp and a dishonest official, with the result that the 
depot became a regular hell for the unfortunates kept 
there. By the end of 1804 the British prisoners at 
Givet numbered upwards of twelve hundred. A number 
of midshipmen had at first been quartered at the depot 
to assist in keeping the men in order, but these were 
removed to Verdun in July, 1804, and the sailors left 
without officers of any kind to support them or take 
their part, left to submit helplessly to the rapacity and 
ill-treatment of the new Governor. He and his satellites, 
the gendarme-warders, took full advantage of the oppor- 
tunity. They treated the prisoners with shameless villainy, 
openly defrauding them of their money allowances, robbing 
them of their rations, and keeping them in a condition 
of absolute destitution, often in fact bordering on starva- 

The demoralization that set in among the prisoners 
at Givet during 1805 in consequence is described by one 
who was there as " frightful, almost incredible." It 
made things worse for them that Captain Brenton had 
some time before left Verdun to take up residence for 
his health's sake at Tours, and there seemed to be nobody 
in his place. To add to the guilt of those responsible 
for the depot, the terrible condition of things was brought 
about of set purpose, with a vile and odious intention. 
The system of persecution was deliberately organized 
as an act of policy, with the design of reducing the 


prisoners to so wretched a condition that, through sheer 
despair, they might be driven to accept the offers that 
were continually being thrust upon them of taking service 
in the French Navy. 

This was the resulting state of affairs at Givet, as 
Captain Brenton, who after a time got to hear about 
it. told one of his relatives later. " Some few were 
drawn away by the offers made to them, and justified 
their desertion by the cold and hunger they had suffered. 
The rest, seeing no prospect of release, without employ- 
ment and without resource, sought for momentary forget- 
fulness in intoxication when liquor could be procured, 
and then sunk into despondency and sullen discontent. 
A more fearful exhibition of human nature it is im- 
possible to conceive !" " The prisoners," says someone 
else who saw them at Givet at this time, " were sunk in 
every kind of abomination, half starved by the French 
Commissariat, destitute of every comfort, and in a state 
of mind which aggravated all their external suffering." 

Providentially, in their darkest hour at Givet, a friend 
was brought on the scene, who, by his single-handed 
efforts, was able in the end not only to recall the men 
to themselves and even bring into being a healthy, con- 
tented tone among them, but also, by dint of self- 
sacrifice, personal courage, and unflagging perseverance, 
so to work on the French authorities as to produce a 
complete reversal of existing conditions. He was a 
clergvman of the Church of England, the Reverend 
Robert Wolfe, a detenu, who had already during two years 
done good work among the midshipmen at Verdun. 

Moved by the reports of the terrible condition of the 
Givet prisoners, which filtered through to Verdun, 
Mr. Wolfe got himself transferred to Givet, nominally 
as chaplain to that depot. His generous and noble- 
hearted endeavours to do good among the Verdun mid- 
shipmen had already brought him more than once into 
conflict with General Wirion, and his removal to Givet 


was in consequence not very difficult to arrange. " He 
determined," we are told by Captain Brenton, who heard 
afterwards of his action, " in a spirit of self-devotion, 
as rare as it is admirable, to move with his family to 
Givet, and to take up his residence amongst the prisoners, 
to try and forward the means of their improvement by 
personal exertions." Mr. Wolfe, indeed, undertook his 
task in spite of the remonstrances of his English friends 
at Verdun, who not only tried to impress on him the 
utter improbability of any good resulting from his self- 
sacrifice, but also tried to frighten him by strongly 
representing the very real personal risk that there must 
be to anyone, "above all others," as it was put, "to a 
parson," in venturing into the midst of men "who had 
practically become wild beasts," people "whom despair 
and suffering had rendered ferocious and whose whole 
relief seemed to be in making others more wretched than 

After Mr. Wolfe's return to England in the winter 
of 1814, he wrote down an account of what he saw and 
did at Givet. His record forms indeed an uniquely 
interesting story. Some extracts from the narrative will 
best give an idea, perhaps, not only of what a brave 
and kindly man did, but also of some of the conditions 
our British sailors and soldiers had to bear up against. 

" On my arrival at Givet," says the self-appointed 
missionary, " I soon discovered that I had undertaken 
a task of much more difficulty and danger than I had 
at all been willing to believe. I found the depot in the 
most deplorable state. Both from a moral and physical 
point of view it would be impossible to conceive anything 
more degraded and miserable. . . . The bodily privations 
of the prisoners and their want of common necessaries of 
life were equally distressing. 

" The barracks were situated in a narrow pass, between 
the perpendicular rock of the fortress of Charlemont 
on the one side and the River Meuse on the other ; and 


all the space the men had for exercise was between the 
building itself and the river, along the bank of which 
was a wall. This slip of ground, not more than ten paces 
in width, and exposed to the southern sun, was in the 
heat of summer a complete oven. Here they were 
obliged to walk, except they should stay in a hot room 
with sixteen persons crowded into it all day. It was 
almost impossible for any of them to get anything from 
their friends, for there was no one to receive it for them ; 
and the little that did come was subjected to deduction 
of five per cent, by the mare'chal des logis. Indeed, so 
great was their distress at that moment, that, unable to 
satisfy the cravings of hunger, they were seen to pick up 
the potato-peelings that were thrown out into the court, 
and devour them." 

Of what resulted : — despair and the consequences. 

"It appears to be the natural tendency of misery and 
want to foster vice and encourage the worst feelings of 
the human heart ; that effect, in its fullest sense, was pro- 
duced on this occasion. The little money that was 
received by the prisoners, instead of being applied to 
the relief of their wants and to make them more com- 
fortable in food and clothing, was spent in riot and excess. 
On these occasions sailors are, of all other men, most 
ready to communicate {sic) and never think of to-morrow. 
Left as they were, entirely to themselves, no one having 
the desire or the power to restrain them, the depot at 
Givet was, perhaps, the most reprobate spot that can be 

"As regards religion," we are also told, "the only 
appearance of it was confined to some twenty Methodists, 
who were the objects of the most painful persecution, and 
often the innocent cause of the most dreadful blasphemies. 
For, not content with abusing and sometimes ill-treating 
them, they would blaspheme and utter their contempt in 
the most extravagant and offensive mockery." 

As regards himself personally, as Mr. Wolfe soon found 


out, he had much more to fear from the French authorities 
than from the prisoners, his hapless fellow-countrymen. 
" The Commandant and those who were under him, from 
the time I arrived at the depot, viewed me with a very 
evil eye. They had all a share in the spoil of the poor 
prisoners, and my interference on their behalf, and the 
opportunities I had of detecting their extortions, enraged 
them exceedingly against me. For the first two years of 
my stay in that place I never went to bed without the 
impression in my mind that ere the morning I might be 
suddenly marched off." 

Speaking of the regularized system of extortion prac- 
tised by some of the French officers, Mr. Wolfe says this : 
" Before I left Verdun I had been cautioned not to pay 
any money to the prisoners, which might be remitted to 
me, without express permission from the Commandant — 
a caution which proved most salutary. For, even though 
I obtained this permission, the mare'chal des logis came to 
me the next morning in a great rage, reproached me with 
taking away his ' honest gains,' and required me in future 
to send in the money through him. I complained to the 
Commandant, who inveighed against the avarice of this 
man ; but I found that he was either unwilling or afraid 
to redress this shameful abuse. And, although I subse- 
quently made many attempts to pay the men their money 
without this abominable drawback, it was always without 
effect, and at the risk of being denounced and sent away 
from the depot." 

Somebody was always spying on him, or trying to trap 
him. The officials with whom he had to do were con- 
tinually tempting him to make unwary comments on 
official affairs for which he might be called to account. 
The whole place, indeed, seemed as though in a fog of 
treachery and suspicion. " In the impossibility of know- 
ing who were in the interest of the Commandant, even 
among the men themselves, I had but one resource. I 
suspected nobody and I trusted nobody. At one time 


the men, when they could not have what they wished, 
suspected that all was not right with me. At another, 
when they complained of tyranny and knavery, the agents 
and subalterns of the Commandant declared that I was 
at the bottom of it, and that they would soon have me in 
the dungeons of Bitche. At a third, the Commandant 
himself would be influenced by his people, and suspect me 
of underhand dealing." 

Honesty, however, as usual proved the best policy. 
Fortunately, too, a third Commandant, a man of better 
type than his predecessor, had taken over the charge of 
the depot soon after Mr. Wolfe's arrival. 

" I found," says the chaplain, " that a plain and straight- 
forward course enabled me to be more serviceable to the 
prisoners ; and, though I could not help sometimes 
making strong representations to the Commandant, I 
never worked indirectly, or endeavoured to set the men's 
minds against him. My general resource was persuasion 
and a direct appeal to his conscience, and his amour 
proprc, which was particularly his weak side. And, with 
the aid of a very kind and influential French officer of 
the Engineers, who was always ready to assist me and 
favour the prisoners, I was enabled to accomplish more 
by this open conduct than I could have done by action of 
a more indirect and inimical nature." 

Mr. Wolfe, on arriving at the depot, found Napoleon's 
atrocious system of bribing or seducing the prisoners, to 
get them to turn traitors and join the French service, in 
regularly organized activity. At that moment, Trafalgar 
having for the time being checked Napoleon's oversea 
ambitions, naval recruiting at Givet had been suspended. 
The men were now being pressed to take up service on 
shore instead, to swell the ranks of the various French 
foreign regiments — in particular the Irish Legion. About 
that Mr. Wolfe has a good deal to tell. 

" I had found," he says, "that on one or two occasions 
an Irish officer in the French service (whose name I do 


not mention in the hope that he may have repented of 
a course so disgraceful, and that it may have been over- 
looked by a generous country), had been in the prison, 
and by bribery and by giving them liquor had, each time, 
induced some of the men to go with him into the French 
service. To have interfered personally in this matter 
would have been a sure way of my being removed from 
the depot. I, however, spoke to the Commandant on 
the subject of the youngsters, and, appealing to him as 
a father, requested that he would not allow any of them 
to take a step which would be their ruin, however much ■ 
they might wish it in order to recover their liberty. 
And this he readily promised, and showed, indeed, a 
desire to do." 

At a later interview the Commandant took the trouble 
to assure Mr. Wolfe that there was no ground for his 
anxiety. The men, he declared, "took the Irishman's 
liquor and laughed at him." The Commandant's asser- 
tion, however, was not quite in accordance with the facts 
that came to the chaplain's knowledge. 

Mr. Wolfe discovered something in regard to that a 
little time afterwards, on going back to Givet after a visit 
to Verdun on private business. 

" Returning to Givet, I was very much astonished to 
meet on the way two or three considerable parties of our 
men. They passed me with downcast looks, and shame 
»vas strongly painted on their countenances. I dared not 
speak to them, not doubting of the fact, and knowing that 
the consequences could only have been evil, without the 
least hope of good. When I arrived, I found that the 
men were so bent upon going into the French service that 
it seemed as though a sort of infatuation had taken pos- 
session of them, and although I was persuaded that the 
object of the greater part of them was to run away and 
get home, yet they were in the meantime becoming traitors 
to their country, and exposing themselves, if they were 
taken, to capital punishment." 


What was he to do next ? How was he to stop the 
men from deserting ? He was aware that an English 
clergyman at another of the depots had been sent back to 
Verdun in arrest for merely warning men in this very 
matter. Also, he heard that the Irish scoundrel was 
boasting openly of his success. " I thought," says Mr. 
Wolfe, "this was a case in which everything was to be 
risked." His mind made up, he acted boldly, promptly, 
and successfully. 

" The officer, I found, had taken lodgings in the town, 
had got many men every day, and had declared that 
Christmas was coming on and that he should then have 
half the barracks. I went up, therefore, the next morning 
to church, as usual, and after the service I spoke to the 
people on the subject. I told them that I had not the 
least apprehension of any of them entering into the service 
of the enemy, but that they were called to use their in- 
fluence with their fellow-prisoners, that it was their duty 
to employ every possible means to prevent others from 
doing a thing so wicked and disgraceful to them as 
Englishmen. They said that they (the French) had not 
only used persuasion, but force ; and that the madness 
was so great that whilst a party of them were standing at 
the gate to prevent desertions, one at a time would take 
the opportunity, when anyone was coming in, and run 
past them before they could stop them. They all, how- 
ever, set to work in earnest, and from this time there were 
not more than one a day, for the two or three days before 
Christmas, and I believe only two or three of the loose 
ones on Christmas Day ; and immediately after this the 
officer went away." 

As it so happened, Mr. Wolfe met the man : the Irish 
officer had the hardihood to call upon the chaplain for 
money. " One day I was sitting in my room writing, 
when a gentleman was shown in, dressed in the most 
elegant French uniform I had perhaps ever seen. Not 
having the least idea who it was, I bowed to him, and 


spoke to him in French. To my great astonishment he 
answered in English that, ' understanding that there 
would probably come some money for some of the men 
who were gone into the French service, he would be much 
obliged if I would forward it.' I answered, I fear rather 
too angrily, 'that I should certainly send the money back.' 
' Then,' said he, ' I have done my duty, and you will do 
yours.' ' I do not know, sir,' I answered, ' what your 
notions of duty may be, but certainly I shall not fail to do 
mine.' He bowed, with extreme confusion marked in his 
face, and hastily went away." 

Generous tribute is paid by the chaplain to some of 
those who helped him actively against the Irish recruiter: 
certain midshipmen, who had been deprived of parole and 
exiled from Verdun to the rigorous discipline of Givet. 
"I ought," Mr. Wolfe remarks, "to make honourable 
mention of the midshipmen who were at the depot. A 
number of them had been sent hither, some time previous 
to this circumstance, for attempting to escape, and they 
showed an extraordinary zeal to prevent the men from 

betraying their country. Mr. B , then a youngster of 

about seventeen, full of zeal for the service in which he 
was engaged, copied and put up in the prison, in spite of 
the gendarmes and spies, a dialogue which I wrote out, 
showing them, in their own quaint expressions, what they 
might expect from the enemy into whose service they 
were enlisting ; and the rest were very active and useful 
in preventing this defection. . . . Their conduct, as 
regarded their service and profession, was so distinguished 
and reflected so much credit upon them that it ought not 
to pass unnoticed." 

Mr. Wolfe says this also of the midshipmen he had to 
do with at Givet : " On some occasions they gave us con- 
siderable anxiety, as might readily be expected by those 
who know what young persons of that age are, even under 
the restriction of a school. They were ready on every 
occasion to crowd every sail with the ebullition of animal 


spirits that elevated national feeling, and exalted notions 
of the British Navy, could give them, without the ballast 
of matured judgment and experience, when they felt that 
their enemies exulted over them, or oppressed the poor 
fellows ; and their interference on behalf of the men was 
often calculated to do harm instead of good. But I feel it 
incumbent on me to give this testimony to the distin- 
guished conduct of these young persons in a point of view 
in which they raised the British character in that place ; 
and that they did what they could to stir up in the minds 
of the men that sense of allegiance to their King and 
their country which time and absence had begun to ex- 

There is, indeed, nothing that Mr. Wolfe can say too 
much for the midshipmen in captivity at Givet with whom 
he came in contact. 

Speaking of the general tone and sense of honour among 
most of the young fellows, he mentions this incident of a 
letter which one of the midshipmen, Edward Boyes — the 
youth who has just been referred to — received from home; 
also its unexpected effect upon the French Commandant. 

" They were so anxious to get home, and so ingenious 
and bold in facing every difficulty which stood in their 
way, that every expedient to prevent them was in vain. 
It was for this cause that some of them were sent from 
Verdun to Givet, and the Commandant took every pre- 
caution that he could think of to inform himself of their 
plans, so as to prevent their escape. 

" Amongst other things, he opened all their letters 
before he allowed them to be sent into the prison, where 
they were closely confined. . . . After eight of them had 
escaped and been retaken, and at the moment when he 
was most alarmed and on the qui vive, a letter arrived 

for Mr. B from his mother. The Commandant 

had no doubt, from the natural affection of a mother, 
that it was to urge him to get home, and perhaps to 
point out a way and furnish him with the means, for 


himself at least, if not for others also. But when it 
was read to him, he could not contain his astonishment 
and admiration, and spoke of it to everybody." 

In the letter, which Mr. Wolfe speaks of as " showing 
a strength of mind and principle not common to the 
gentle nature and indulgent feelings of a mother," 
Mrs. Boyes, after telling her son that she had heard 
of some midshipmen at other places breaking their parole 
and getting home, entreated him on no account " to let 
any personal suffering, or ill-treatment, or example, 
induce him to do what would disgrace himself, distress 
his family beyond measure, and cast a reflection upon his 

The letter, we are told, worked like magic at the depot. 
As has been said, by a fortunate coincidence, just before 
that a new Commandant had arrived at Givet — an officer 
of a better type and kindlier disposition than his im- 
mediate predecessor. 

" The letter," we are told, " together with a strict 
observance of a given, or even implied, parole, on the 
part of all the prisoners, even to the lowest amongst 
them, so raised the character of the English at Givet 
that the Commandant was quite persuaded that they 
were most in safety when they were in the enjoyment 
of liberty. Many of the men, therefore, were permitted 
to work in the town, and were much sought after by 
those who wanted workmen or servants ; and a great 
number walked out into the town, and even into the 
country every day. But though they were constantly 
escaping from the prison itself, they never betrayed the 
confidence placed in them. The midshipmen were now 
all allowed their parole, and showed themselves as worthy 
of it as established officers." 

The honourable conduct of the Givet midshipmen in 
regard to their parole, indeed, seems to have had a 
widespread effect among the people of those parts, 
according to another of the chaplain's stories. The 


General in charge of the district, a General Monleau, 
was, we are told, openly complaining once, at an evening 
party, of the difficulty he found in preventing escapes 
of the midshipmen at another depot where they were 
kept in close confinement. He had put them, declared 
the General, in his strongest dungeons, but it was all 
in vain. " Je vous indiquerai, General," interposed a 
lady sitting by, " un moyen sur !" The General turned 
to her, listening intently. " Mettez les sur leur parole : 
les Anglais sont esclaves de leur parole d'honneur!" 

We are told this story also of the midshipmen at Givet. 
It was a short time after there had been more escapes of 
the prisoners from the depot ; at night, from the prison 
after locking up hours. 

"Three of the young gentlemen," says Mr. Wolfe, 
" gave proof of adherence to that pledge (the parole) 
which would reflect credit upon officers even of rank 
in the Army or Navy. Their friends had now been some 
time away, and had arrived home, and they began to 
regret that they had not gone with them. They came 
to me to ask me to give them money for bills upon 
their friends, which I did, of course asking no questions. 
The same evening they conducted themselves in such 
a manner as they were persuaded would cause the 
Commandant to take away their parole. But he sus- 
pected what they were meditating and refused to put 
them in prison. The next night they made a more 
determined attempt, but still in vain ; he would not take 
away their parole. Precisely at that moment, as if to 
try their faith to the utmost, an order arrived from the 
Minister of War to send all the midshipmen, under 
a double escort of gendarmes, to Verdun. But in spite 
of this positive order the Commandant took upon him- 
self to send them upon their parole : and they walked 
all the way to that place without the least idea of 
escaping, although all the soldiers of France would 
scarcely have prevented them from making the attempt." 


There were no bounds to the persistent endeavours of 
this true-hearted man to better the conditions of life among 
those whom he had devoted himself to serve in their 
distress. These are some of the things he did. 

As soon as possible after his arrival at Givet he set 
himself to establish a school of general instruction for the 
sailors, with the idea of giving the men useful occupation 
and combating the demoralizing influences that beset 
them. The school, which was open to men of all ages, 
proved successful beyond anticipation and worked wonders. 
" Though the funds were at that period of our captivity," 
remarks Mr. Wolfe, " but scantily, and with great diffi- 
culty, obtained, we were yet able to carry on a system of 
education which for extent, usefulness, and the rapid 
progress made by those who were instructed, has perhaps 
seldom been equalled. It is indeed wonderful at how 
small an expense a number of persons, generally amount- 
ing to between four and five hundred, were taught to read, 
write, go through the highest rules in arithmetic, navi- 
gation in all its branches, construct charts and maps, and 
work at the practical part of their profession, as far as 
could be learned from the form of a vessel which had 
been admirably rigged for this purpose. And the small 
sums given to those among them who were capable of 
instructing their fellow-prisoners as masters or assistants 
were very useful." 

At the same time, Mr. Wolfe was toiling day after day 
to stir the hospital authorities at Givet into doing their 
duty to the sick prisoners. The most horrible abuses 
existed in the hospital at the time of his arrival. " This 
abode of sickness and misery was the most abandoned 
portion of the depot." The wretched inmates were in a 
condition of utter neglect, "covered with vermin," we are 
told in so many words ; left to the tender mercies of 
brutal and ignorant French soldier-nurses, certain old 
soldiers of the garrison told off for the purpose, who were 
allowed to do practically as they pleased — men, we are 


told, " hackneyed" in every vice, and hardened amidst the 
most appalling scenes of sickness, misery, and death." 
The task of cleansing that Augean stable proved a lengthy 
and laborious one. It involved on the single-handed 
English clergyman strenuous personal toil by day and 
night, incessant visits to French officials, and appeals to 
their humanity, as well as repeated interviews with the 
Commandant, at first inclined to resent a foreigner's 
interference. But in the end it met with success. 
Patience and perseverance gained ground, and finally 
Mr. Wolfe got his way. The existing method became 
entirely reversed, and then the results were marvellous. 
"From this time," records Mr. Wolfe, "the poor 
men were as comfortable as in an English hospital. 
Extreme cleanliness," he continues, " succeeded to the 
state of filth in which I found them ; and as wine and 
many other things were there abundant and very reason- 
able, they had even greater comforts than would have 
been provided for them at home. The consequence was 
that we had a smaller proportion of deaths, compared 
with the persons present, than is scarcely ever known." 

Two or three among the more humanely disposed of the 
French officers of the garrison were induced to sympathize 
with the chaplain and assist him in his different under- 
takings for the prisoners, notably Colonel Flayelle, the 
Commanding Engineer at Givet. With this officer Mr. 
Wolfe was able to establish cordial and intimate relations. 
This is one of the stories that the chaplain tells about the 
Colonel's friendly disposition. Wanting to enlarge the 
prisoners' exercising ground, the chaplain asked Colonel 
Flayelle's permission to enclose an adjoining open space, 
offering at the same time to pay out of his own pocket for 
the palisading which would be required to keep the pri- 
soners within bounds. " On this occasion, as on all others, 
he willingly listened to our wishes, and did more than we 
asked." Also, indeed, the Colonel made his own Govern- 
ment pay for the palisades. " I was agreeably surprised," 


remarks Mr. Wolfe, " when the work had been done and 
I went to settle my account with the Colonel, to find that 
he had represented to the Minister the inconsistency that 
there would be in allowing this expense to be borne by 
individuals, and he would not hear of my paying a 
farthing !" 

As the final outcome of his labours at Givet, it is grati- 
fying to record that Mr. Wolfe worked what might almost 
be termed a miracle. He even brought round the French 
authorities to side with him and be grateful. Speaking of 
one of the later Commandants of the depot, who had 
begun by oppressing the prisoners and evincing hostility 
to the chaplain's measures, he says this : " The moral and 
religious feeling that was manifested among the men ren- 
dered them so much more peaceful and sober, more satis- 
fied, and even cheerful in their conduct, and so much 
more faithful to their word and engagements, that I really 
think he felt it a sort of personal security to himself !" 

Said, indeed, an English detenu, allowed to visit Givet 
in 1810, referring to the reformed conduct of the men : 
" This is a most extraordinary thing : I have been through 
a depot of 1,500 sailors and not seen a single drunken 

When he first went to Givet, as Mr. Wolfe tells us, 
every prisoner at the depot without exception was kept 
in close confinement, locked in behind the bolts of the 
barrack-square gates. "I began," he says, "by getting 
out one, and then a second and a third person, for my 
own service ; then some others in whom I had most con- 
fidence. The good behaviour of these men encouraged 
the Commandant to give liberty to others. The number 
of those who had permission to reside in the town, or to 
work and walk out of the prison, increased daily ; and at 
length, so complete was his confidence in them, that he 
allowed many of them to walk out into the country, and 
often let as many as two hundred out of prison at a time. 
. . . The Commandant was persuaded, and acted entirely 


upon that persuasion, that the only thing that could bind 
them was the moral obligation of their word, which, 
whether given or implied, they never broke in any 
instance that came to my knowledge." 

Escapes from within the prison enclosure, among the 
prisoners who were kept locked up, there certainly were 
from time to time, but not one from among the prisoners 
at large in the town or those who had leave to go outside. 
" The most striking instances of faithfulness to their word, 
and a sense of obligation to it," as Mr. Wolfe says, "were 
given by the prisoners, and it was not officers or people of 
education who thus distinguished themselves, but common 
sailors and youngsters who might have been expected to 
view the breach of the parole only as a joke. So that it 
was considered that it was a national feeling, and raised 
the English character in that country extremely." 

This most exceptional compliment, indeed, was paid to 
Mr. Wolfe during 1810. There being a rumour that he 
was to be recalled to Verdun, the senior French officers at 
Givet sent a memorial to the Minister of War in Paris in 
regard to his special services. It was signed by the 
General in command of the district, the then Commandant 
of the depot, and the Colonel of Engineers, and set forth 
that " such was the contentment, cheerfulness, sobriety, 
and manageableness of the prisoners during his residence 
at the depot that his presence was of more avail than any 
number of gendarmes." 

Captain Brenton's opinion of the national value of Mr. 
Wolfe's labours may also be added. " The moral influ- 
ence which was exercised on the people at Givet prevented 
desertion, and probably preserved hundreds of valuable 
seamen for the service of their country. The schools 
which were established at the same time for the boys 
rescued them from the evils of ignorance and prepared 
them to resume their places in the Navy, instructed in the 
theory and practice of navigation. Had this not been 
done, all the prisoners, both old and young, would have 


returned from their captivity unfit for employment, and 
burdens to the country which received them ; and the 
nation owed to Mr. Wolfe a debt which might have justi- 
fied any mark of public gratitude." 

Mr. Wolfe himself tells us further that after the war 
situations in England were found for many of the men 
who had been prisoners at the depot "which their instruc- 
tion at Givet rendered them capable of, and to which 
their good conduct during the period of their confinement 
recommended them. I have been informed," he adds, " of 
many who are now occupying stations exceedingly superior 
to their original prospects in life, having been taught 
even to read during their captivity as prisoners of war in 
France.' ' 

For his services, our Government at home, after the 
close of the war and with all the facts before them, pro- 
posed to give Mr. Wolfe not a single penny — nothing ! 
After a time, under pressure, and in grudging response to 
the angry protests of certain officers who felt outraged at 
the scandalous shabbiness of the British Government, 
a lump sum was granted as a gratuity, " representing a 
chaplain's pay during the period of his residence at Givet." 
No more than that. The sum was granted — on paper. 
With pitiful meanness the Treasury kept the money back 
for months. It was only paid over in the end, we are 
told, " after long delay and many applications." 

The most memorable day in the annals of Givet, and 
for the British prisoners there as well, came in Novem- 
ber, 1811, on the twelfth of the month, when Napoleon 
visited Givet. An incident of an extraordinary and 
dramatic nature further marked the occasion. It was 
when Napoleon, accompanied by the Imperial Head- 
Quarters Staff, was making an official tour of inspection 
through Holland and along the northern frontier of 
France. The Emperor was on his way back to Paris, 
and selected Givet as one of the places at which he would 
halt for a night. 


The local authorities were, of course, all agog with 
excitement for days beforehand, and " loud in their ex- 
pressions of a desire to show their devotion and zeal." 
So we are told by Mr. Wolfe, who saw it all, and had also, 
as things turned out, a part to take in connection with the 
unrehearsed event which made Napoleon's visit historic 
for the British prisoners of war. 

Napoleon was expected early in the afternoon. He did 
not come ; nor was it known where exactly the Imperial 
party were. It was only known that they were on their 
way to Givet. The weather was November at its worst: 
raw and misty, with continuous torrents of drenching rain, 
and the streets of the town ankle-deep in mud. All the 
authorities of the district, military and civil, in their most 
gorgeous uniforms, had been assembled waiting for the 
Emperor throughout the day, nervous and fidgety in 
their anxiety as they fretted over the unaccountable delay. 
From eleven in the morning until five in the afternoon 
they waited, penned up together in the salon of the Hotel 
de Ville. Four o'clock came, and still there was no news 
of the approach of the Emperor. Then, just as it was 
growing dusk, all of a sudden one of the advance-couriers 
of the Imperial escort, splashed with mud from head to 
foot, came galloping into the courtyard in front of the 
Hotel de Yille. Windows were thrown up, and every 
neck was craned out in excitement. " His Majesty is at 
hand !" called out the messenger. 

Out into the rain forthwith all the assembled function- 
aries had to turn, and paddle off through the mud to meet 
the Emperor at the town boundary. " The procession 
had to wade through it all in full dress," describes Mr. 
Wolfe, " bearing their blushing honours thick upon them. 
The General of Division, the Prefect, the Mayor, and all 
the other authorities, in silk stockings and dress shoes, had 
to walk in all this pouring rain for nearly a mile, the 
Mayor repeating to himself a speech which he had pre- 
pared for the occasion of presenting the keys of the town. 


Arrived at the boundary, they halted, waiting, with much 
patience in spite of the weather and the dirt, the coming 
of the Emperor. Couriers passed quickly, and at length 
the cortege arrived. 

" It was nearly dark, yet it was light enough to dis- 
tinguish the august company. The Mayor announced 
who they were, and what was their purpose. But not 
a word was deigned ; the only answer was an additional 
crack from the whips of the postillions." 

All that could be done then was to go back. They all, 
therefore, the General, the Commandant, the Prefect, the 
Mayor, and the score of other official personages, splashed 
their way back in solemn procession to the centre of the 
town until they came to the mansion that had been pre- 
pared for the reception of Napoleon. They entered the 
courtyard, and sent in word who they were. Nobody 
asked them inside the building, and they had to stand 
there, drenched to the skin in the incessant downpour, 
numbed and shivering with the cold, for nearly an hour. 
No notice whatever was taken of their presence, although 
they sent in word a second time that they were there, and 
craved an audience to pay their dutiful respects to His 
Majesty. At length somebody came to the hall door to 
see them. It was Caulaincourt, the Marshal of the Impe- 
rial Palace. " Messieurs," ran his curt message, " Sa 
Majesty L'Empereur ne recoit pas !" His Majesty does 
not wish to receive anybody. That was all Caulaincourt 
said, and turned on his heel. The dripping dignitaries of 
Givet had to go away back to the Hotel de Ville. There, 
before they dispersed, they were informed that Napoleon 
proposed to proceed on his way at seven o'clock next 
morning. His Majesty also did not desire to see anybody 
at all at Givet, except the Engineer officer in charge of 
the fortifications. 

But before Napoleon was able to get away from Givet 
something else was to happen. The River Meuse had 
been flooded by the torrential rain and was rising rapidly. 


It ran, as has been told, between Givet and Charlemont, 
the two groups of fortifications being connected by a 
pontoon bridge, over which lay Napoleon's road to Paris. 

Disquieted at a rumour about the dangerously swollen 
state of the river, which reached him in the course of the 
evening, Caulaincourt, between ten and eleven o'clock, 
sent for the Captain of the pontoon-train, who was 
responsible for the bridge. " Is the bridge in any danger 
of being carried away ?" asked Caulaincourt of the officer 
as he entered. " No, your Excellency," was the reply ; 
" I believe it is perfectly secure." " Will you answer for 
it ?" " I will." The Captain thereupon withdrew. 

He had, however, been made uneasy by the Marshal's 
interrogation, and forthwith went down to the river bank 
to inspect the bridge once more. What he saw now 
alarmed him. The river was still rising, and he began to 
doubt whether the moorings of the pontoons could stand 
the further strain. He hastened back, thereupon, to the 
house where Caulaincourt was lodging to report his fears 
to the Marshal. But Caulaincourt had gone to bed. The 
Captain saw the Staff officer on duty, and asked him to 
take a message to the Marshal of the Palace. The super- 
cilious young guardsman, however, fresh from the supper 
table, only laughed. He loftily referred the importunate 
Capitaine des Pontonniers to Caulaincourt's valet-de- 
chambre ! That was too much. With a snort of indig- 
nation, and saying, " Je ne vois pas les valets," the officer 
turned away, and again hurried back to see what could be 
done to make the bridge safe. 

He sent for more of his men, with a supply of chains 
and grapnels, and they all worked their hardest for three 
hours to keep the pontoons in position. But all their 
labour proved in vain. Between three and four in the 
morning a fresh flood of storm-water came swirling down 
stream. It snapped the heavy chains of the pontoon like 
pack-threads, sweeping the entire bridge away before it. 

In despair the wretched officer went back again to the 


Marshal's quarters, and this time he had Caulaincourt 
awakened. The interview, which took place in the 
Marshal's bedroom, was an angry one. Caulaincourt lost 
his temper, and in his rage struck the Captain. Again the 
unlucky officer hurried out through the rain to see if any- 
thing could be managed ; but nothing whatever could be 
done. The Givet engineer troop, who had been working 
all night, were worn out and useless for further exertions. 
The rest of the garrison were asleep in their barracks, 
most of the soldiers dead drunk after revelling in the 
cabarets during the previous evening in celebration of 
the Emperor's visit. 

The Colonel in charge of the fortifications had been 
sent for meanwhile by Caulaincourt. He came at once, 
but he could only suggest one remedy. " You will do 
nothing, Monseigneur le Mardchal," he said, " unless you 
send to the depot-barracks and get some of the English 
prisoners !" Caulaincourt stared, staggered at the very 
idea. But Colonel Flayelle, who knew more about the 
English prisoners than any other Frenchman at Givet, 
insisted on his proposal as absolutely the only thing to 
be done. Caulaincourt had in the end to assent. " Will 
you answer for them ?" asked the Marshal then. " With 
my head !" replied the Colonel confidently. So it was 
settled, and Colonel Flayelle hurried up at once to the 
depot-barracks, where, in a very short time, thirty picked 
seamen were collected, told what was wanted of them, and 
marched down to the riverside to construct a temporary 

Mr. Wolfe saw the men at work soon after daylight. 
" The windows of my lodging commanded a view of the 
bridge," he describes, " and on my first looking out in 
the morning I was extremely surprised at seeing a number 
of our men at work upon the river. 

"They really had the appearance," he continues, "of 
amphibious animals in shape, and with an extraordinary 
share of the intelligence of men ; some working up to 


their necks in water, others skimming in little light boats 
against the rapid current as if they were going with the 
stream ; at one time swimming to a place they could not 
otherwise reach, at another diving to a vast depth to carry 
out their work." ... "I immediately," adds Mr. Wolfe, 
" sent out my servant with some brandy, and gave each of 
them a little to prevent them from taking cold. And, as 
I thought it very probable that they might obtain their 
liberty, I allowed him to go and help them ; and many 
men, who had permission to live out in the town, did the 

Dressing hastily and going into the street, Mr. Wolfe 
took his way to the house where Napoleon was staying, 
in case the great man might be visible to outsiders. 
'• binding it impossible to get near the door of the house 
for the crowd," says he, " we placed ourselves before 
the window. Here a great number of persons were 
collected to get a sight of Napoleon, who came from 
time to time to the window, looking with astonishment 
at the activity and exertion of the sailors, and sometimes 
turning his glass down upon the persons under the 
window, where some of the first noblemen in that neigh- 
bourhood were waiting, humbly seeking to catch a look 
from him that they might present to him their different 
petitions, but of whom he took no more notice than if 
they had been dogs." 

" In the morning," continues Mr. Wolfe with regard to 
Napoleon, " when he found his departure prevented, he 
was absolutely furious ; but he soon began to cool and 
returned to bed. After breakfast, he sent for all the 
authorities, and was affable and familiar in the extreme . . . 
and every one who approached him was in admiration 
and delight. The Mayor, who was a very nervous man, 
and from the Emperor's conduct on the previous evening 
was in the greatest trepidation, was set at ease as if by 
magic. When he entered, Napoleon was sitting on a 
table shaking his legs under it. He addressed him in 


the most familiar manner — ' Ah ! bon jour, Monsieur le 
Maire ' — and entered into an easy and cheerful conversa- 
tion with him about his family and everything that 
concerned him. I never in my life," adds Mr. Wolfe, 
"saw a man capable in an instant of such a change 
of countenance. At one moment he would seem to look 
through a person with knit brows and a fierceness so 
terrible as scarcely to appear human. The next moment 
his countenance would light up and exhibit an appear- 
ance of sprightliness and good-humour which is rarely 
seen in man." 

This almost incredible and certainly unique incident 
took place on the reconstructed bridge between nine and 
ten o'clock that morning. 

" On leaving the Palais," relates Mr. Wolfe, " Napoleon 
went down to the river, and here a very interesting scene 
was offered to our view, and one that exhibited in a 
strong and gratifying point of view the character of the 
British sailor. The English were still working at the 
bridge, which they had nearly finished. He began to 
talk with one of them, through Mortier [the celebrated 
Marshal, Due de Treviso], who was standing with him, 
and they all came round him. And now, any one of 
these men, who would have gone up to a cannon's mouth 
to have destroyed this enemy in battle, might, with one 
push, have sent him to the bottom of the Meuse, to rise 
no more. With good reason they might have said of him 
that he made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed 
the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his 
prisoners. Yet, far from having any evil thoughts to- 
wards him, when he confided in their good faith, they 
were a sort of garde d'honneur to him as he passed the 
river. And so great was the confidence that he had 
in them that he would have no one else about him ; and 
there was not a single Frenchman allowed to be on 
the flying bridge which they had constructed to bring 
him over." 


On the further bank Napoleon mounted his horse and 
galloped up the almost breakneck steep leading to the 
fortress of Charlemont, careering without drawing rein 
right round the fortifications, and all the time making 
observations to the Colonel of Engineers and his staff, 
who could hardly keep up with him. " He returned 
before those who had been about him were well aware 
that he had set off." 

Before leaving Givet Napoleon had it notified to 
Mr. Wolfe, through the Mayor, that all who had been 
engaged on the bridge should, as a special favour, be 
permitted to return to England immediately; with a 
new suit of clothes per man and a gratuity. Also 
Mr. Wolfe was to be permitted to accompany them, in 
charge of the party. Faith, however, was not kept with 
all the thirty British prisoners who had worked on the 
bridge. The list of names which was made out, on 
being forwarded to the Minister of War in Paris, was 
cut down to less than half, and only fourteen of the thirty 
actually gained their freedom. 

It may be added that Napoleon himself did not forget 
the incident of how the English sailors reconstructed 
Givet bridge. This is the version of the episode which 
he gave at St. Helena to Dr. O'Meara, his Irish medical 
attendant during those last years. In his own account 
Napoleon took all the credit to himself for the idea 
of making use of the English prisoners. According to 
O'Meara Napoleon told the story in these words : 

" When I was returning from Holland, along with the 
Empress Marie Louise, we stopped to rest at Givet. 
During the night a violent storm of wind and rain came 
on, which swelled the Meuse so much that the bridge 
of boats over it was carried away. I was very anxious 
to depart, and ordered all the boatmen in the place to 
be assembled that I might be enabled to cross. They 
said the waters were too high, that it would be impossible 
to pass before two or three days. I questioned some 


of them, and soon discovered that they were freshwater 
seamen. I then recollected that there were some English 
prisoners in the place, and ordered that some of the 
oldest and best seamen among them should be brought 
before me to the banks of the river. The water was very 
high and the current rapid and dangerous. I asked them 
if they could join a number of boats so that I might 
pass over. They answered that it was possible, but 
hazardous. I desired them to set about it instantly. In 
the course of a few hours they succeeded in effecting 
what the other imbeciles had pronounced impossible, 
and I crossed before the evening was over. I ordered 
those who had worked at it to receive a sum of money 
each, a suit of clothes, and their liberty." 

Such was Napoleon's own version of the story of the 
bridge of Givet. 


BITCHE, an isolated fortress in Lorraine, some eighty 
miles east of Verdun, was the principal punishment- 
depot for British prisoners who transgressed the regula- 
tions, naval and military officers and men, and civilian 
detenus. " The high turrets and massive towers of the 
gloomy fortress," as Midshipman O'Brien describes with 
a shudder the aspect of the place, " stood perched on the 
summit of a vast rocky eminence, steep and almost in- 
accessible, with a sheer drop of some hundred feet on all 
sides, amidst a bleak, forbidding tract of country. Their 
very appearance was sufficient to strike the mind with 
horror. ... It had on one side three ramparts. The 
first is from 90 to 100 feet high ; the second from 40 to 50 ; 
and the third from 25 to 30 ; with redoubts, entrench- 
ments, and all contrivances of military engineering almost 

Verdun furnished most of the Bitche victims, principally 
during the rule of General Wirion, sent often for no speci- 
fied offence. Some of Wirion's officer victims, indeed, 
were not allowed to know anything of what was impending 
for them until they were suddenly roused out of bed by 
gendarmes in their lodgings in the town — usually between 
four and five in the morning, while the whole place was 
asleep. The gendarmes hustled their victims off, giving 
them hardly time to cram into a trunk what things they 
could lay hands on at the moment ; sometimes, indeed, 
we are told, hardly allowing them time to get all their 
clothes on. The prisoners were then ordinarily started 
off on foot, sleeping at night while on the way in the 



gaols of the places passed through. " As an indulgence, 
which I paid for," records one officer with money, who 
was so sent from Verdun to Bitche, " I was permitted to 
travel in a vehicle, with, as my companions inside, the 
two gendarmes my guards. I had to pay for the gen- 
darmes' food and drink by the way — and they ordered 
what they liked !" 

Such was the experience, as a fact, of the first British 
prisoner sent to Bitche — a Colonel Stack of the Old Irish 
Brigade of the French Royal Army, who, after the Revo- 
lution, had joined the British Army. He had been arrested 
in Paris as one of the detenus and sent to Verdun. On 
the night before his deportation to Bitche Colonel Stack 
gave a large dinner-party in the house at Verdun he was 
allowed to occupy, at which General Wirion was present, 
all amiability and smiles. Wirion left the house at mid- 
night, shaking hands with his host and thanking him 
heartily for his hospitality. Three hours after that, at 
three in the morning, two gendarmes knocked Colonel 
Stack up, produced what purported to be an order from 
Paris for his immediate transfer to Bitche, and hurried 
him off in a carriage hired at the Colonel's expense. They 
behaved during the journey as has been said, eating their 
meals at the Colonel's table, and even sleeping in the 
same bedroom with him. Colonel Stack was kept a close 
prisoner at Bitche for over three years, no reason for his 
detention being forthcoming. He was then sent back to 
Verdun, where he had to remain until 1814 — until the end 
of the war. 

Prisoners of every description and class were to be 
found at Bitche : naval and military officers whose parole 
had been taken away, sailors and soldiers, also a number 
of detenus, some of them gentlemen of position in England, 
others blackguards and rogues, sharpers, drunkards, and 
so forth, whom the Verdun authorities had found it con- 
venient thus to get rid of. The senior officers and detenus 
were assigned quarters in the upper barracks and case- 


mates in the citadel, as many sometimes as twenty having 
to live together in the larger apartments. They were 
badly fed, on Government rations, and had to do every- 
thing for themselves, being subject to rigorous confine- 
ment, and only allowed out for exercise in the barrack- 
yard for a limited time every day ; but they fared royally 
in comparison with the lot of the other prisoners — the 
great majority — of inferior station. These, comprising 
midshipmen and merchant-ship officers and sailors and 
soldiers, were all crowded into underground vaults, damp, 
cold, loathsome dungeons, originally hewn out of the solid 
rock in the days of Louis XI. of France to serve as the 
storehouses of the fortress during a siege. 

One of the smaller vaults, the worst of all, a cramped 
and narrow cell in which were confined prisoners re- 
captured after escape, and undergoing special punishment 
in consequence, was fifty steps beneath the surface of the 
rock. " It was fifty deep stone steps underground, for I 
have often counted them," records Midshipman O'Brien, 
who was on two occasions kept a prisoner at Bitche. 
The place he describes as being " ankle-deep in slime 
and filth," and "reeking with noxious and pestiferous 
effluvium." For window there was one narrow hole in 
the rock face, with a triple-barred iron grating across it; 
that single aperture to admit air and light, and the 
prisoners there were only allowed, all the year round, " a 
little straw and a blanket." Half a dozen men were some- 
times kept there together, for a month at a time, with 
only two hours above ground daily for exercise. 

In another dungeon, one of the principal soutcrrains, 
thirty steps under ground, according to O'Brien's descrip- 
tion, as many as sixty prisoners were confined together, 
and had to live, and eat, and sleep in the place. They 
were allowed a wood fire in winter, "as an indulgence," 
and rush-lights at night, with, for bedding, a blanket and 
straw on the floor. There were two large souterraim of 
this kind at Bitche. 


In these vaults sailors, soldiers, and midshipmen were 
penned in together in squalid misery, " among the rats 
which infested the dungeons." They were allowed 
between certain hours every day to walk up and down 
in the confined space of the central courtyard of the 
fortress, under observation all the time by armed sentries 
posted on the walls round. All were locked up for the 
night at seven in the evening in summer, and at four 
o'clock in winter. 

A call-over of the prisoners was held at eleven o'clock 
every forenoon ; nominally a roll-call, it was usually a 
mere formality, the counting of heads by the gendarme 
in charge of each dungeon. Once a month a general 
muster and parade was held in the main courtyard, when 
all were officially inspected by the Commandant. No 
excuse for non-attendance at that was accepted, we are 
told, " not even sickness." " If a prisoner was able to 
crawl, he must attend, and frequently they were carried," 
relates O'Brien. 

In spite of everything, in spite of the most elaborate 
precautions by the officers in charge, the most incredible 
difficulties of the place and situation — the towering ram- 
parts, the double drawbridges over deep ditches, the triple- 
walled fortifications which barred access to the world 
outside — there were several attempts at escape from 
Bitche. In most instances, unfortunately, the attempts 
were unsuccessful ; but some reckless fellows did actually 
manage to get away, as will be told farther on in this 

General Lord Blayney, who was at Verdun as a 
prisoner of war, records this experience of incarceration 
at Bitche, " which," he says, " I received from a gentleman 
who had inhabited its subterraneous dungeons." 

" We arrived at Bitche," describes the narrator, " and 
were marched to the Petty Tett, where we were searched 
for concealed implements with which we might attempt 
our escape. From thence we were conducted to the sub- 


terraneous dungeons, and, to our great surprise, were 
better received than we expected. 

" The first night we were put into the great dungeon in 
which were three or four hundred midshipmen, soldiers, 
sailors, and others jumbled together. The descent to it 
was about fifty or sixty steps, and on reaching the bottom 
we were received with three cheers, immediately hoisted 
on the shoulders of four men, and marched round the 
place with hallooing and shouting. A blanket was then 
produced, into which we were forced to enter, and received 
a hearty tossing. These ceremonies we thought would 
make us free of these gloomy abodes, but, in addition, we 
were obliged to give two bottles of ' snick,' an ardent 
spirit which, when mixed with water, turns quite blue ! 
It is not, however, considered more unwholesome than 
other spirits. 

" In two or three days we were shifted from the grand 
to the little dungeon, called by the seamen 'Saint Giles's.' 
The descent was by nearly the same number of steps as 
to the great one, and we were made free by going through 
the same ceremonies as before, with a double allowance 
of 'snick,' which being drank, and some of the party being 
half-sea over, I was asked ' if I could show ?' To that, 
not knowing the meaning, I answered ' Yes.' A ring was 
immediately formed, I was stripped to the buff, and a 
champion of nearly my height, but much stouter, stood 
forward, and in self-defence I was obliged to commence a 
boxing-match, which was regulated by all the rules of 
pugilism, each having his bottle-holder and second. At 
the end of every third round we each got a glass of 
' snick,' and in this manner I was forced to fight for an 
hour and a half ; but being inferior to my antagonist, I 
received a drubbing that prevented my moving for six days. 

" The dungeon, which resembled a large wine-vault, is 
sunk twenty-five to thirty feet underground, and is 
excavated in a saltpetre rock. In many places the walls 
drip continuously from the vaults, and in winter the cold 


and damp are beyond description ; nor had the prisoners 
in general clothing sufficient to prevent the baneful effects 
on their health, the blanket allowed to each being usually 
a condemned one from the soldiers' barracks. 

" In these shocking dungeons the prisoners were locked 
up from eight o'clock at night till the same hour in the 
morning, when they were mustered out and permitted to 
remain in the yard, which is about one hundred and 
twenty paces in length and twenty in breadth, until noon. 
They were then again mustered into the subterraneous 
receptacle, and remained there till two, when they were 
again let out into the yard until six in the evening." 

According to an English visitor to Bitche a few years 
ago — the fortress, it may be mentioned, is now in German 
possession, being within the Alsatian territory ceded at 
the close of the Franco-German War of 1870 — the names, 
with ships and regiments, of many of the British prisoners 
are still to be seen, deeply cut or scored on the outer stone 
walls of the barracks, "more than one name belonging to 
well-known English, Scottish, or Irish families." 

Sedan was the second of the prison-depots in the time 
of Napoleon for British prisoners ; it was used mostly for 
those sent for penal detention from Arras and Valenciennes, 
although a good number also came from Verdun and from 
Givet. If, to us of these days, Sedan is best known as the 
scene of the overwhelming disaster to the army of Napo- 
leon III., in 1870, the name, in 1814 and for many a year 
after that, recalled for nine Englishmen out of ten memo- 
ries hardly less hateful than those of Bitche. The fortress 
was visited during 1814, on the conclusion of peace, by 
Lord Blayney, while returning to England after his cap- 
tivity, the General taking his way home through Belgium 
to embark at Ostend. 

" In going through Sedan," says Lord Blayney, " I had 
the curiosity to inspect the fortress, so celebrated for being 
the place of punishment of those English prisoners who 
attempted to make their escape from other depots. 


Nothing could be more formidable than the place of con- 
finement for these poor fellows in the citadel, or chateau, 
which is situated nearly in the centre of the town. To 
arrive at this abode of systematic torture you have to pass 
two very extensive covered ways, the latter of which is 
very steep and cut through a solid rock. On entering, you 
perceive a cell allotted to each person, no communication 
being ever permitted one with another. The doors of the 
prison are double, and secured with bars in all directions. 
Should anyone escape out of his cell, the wall to descend 
in the lower part is about one hundred and sixty feet deep, 
and having once attained that point, he has to climb over 
prodigious rocks and walls of immense height, surrounded 
by sentinels at short and convenient intervals. 

" For a stranger to look at these precautions he would 
suppose it next to an impossibility to escape, but such is 
the powerful incentive of liberty that I have seen and 
known many common soldiers and sailors who have 
escaped from these prisons, without even the assistance 
of money to clear a passage ; but almost all of them, after 
having surmounted these difficulties and obtained the 
summit of their wishes, unfortunately committed them- 
selves by some act of intemperance or folly." 

One of these men Lord Blayney mentions as having 
been visited by him at Verdun. He was a soldier of the 
61st, an Irishman from Ulster, who was then confined in 
the Porte Chaussee prison of Verdun, after having made 
his escape from Sedan three times within fifteen months. 

Yet another punishment-depot for the British prisoners 
of war in France was at Sarrelouis in Alsace. What life 
at Sarrelouis was like, and how some, who had experiences 
of both places, considered its horrors even worse than the 
horrors of Bitche, is related by Lieutenant James, whose 
amazing experiences, adventures, escapes, and recaptures, 
during the ten years that he spent as a prisoner of Napoleon, 
are related separately in the next chapter. 


The Imprisonment and Attempted Escapes of 
Lieutenant R. B. James 

LIEUTENANT R. B. JAMES, the author of the 
following narrative, as a midshipman was held a 
prisoner under Napoleon between the years 1804 and 1814. 
He recorded his experiences and adventures after his 
release at the Peace of 1814 in a manuscript volume, to 
which he added later an account of his further services in 
the Mediterranean, intending to publish the whole under 
the style of " The Naval Officer — or the Vicissitudes of 
a Sea Life, by Lieut. R. B. James, late First of H.M.S. 
Revenge." Apparently, however, he died before carrying 
out his intention, in 1830. The manuscript, which is 
very clearly written and is bound in volume form, fell 
in some way into the hands of a country bricklayer, 
from whom last spring it came into the possession of the 
present writer. In presenting here the account of Lieu- 
tenant James's experiences, the old officer's spelling and 
punctuation, uncouth as they may sometimes look, have 
been kept to. The narrative is given exactly as origin- 
ally set forth, nothing being omitted or altered. 

" It was in the month of August 1804 ; that the Rambler 
brig of war — to which I then belonged as midshipman, was 
on her return to the channel fleet off Brest ; — having been 
with dispatches to Sir Robert Calders Squadron off Roch- 

fort ; Being close in with the land, near the Isle of 

Dieu ; we discovered a convoy of small vessels going from 



the Island to the main, escorted by a gun boat ; — A Shoal 
lay between us ; consequently we manned our three boats, 
and went in chace ; hoping to cut some of them off before 

they got under the Batteries ; it was light winds ; and 

our boats were coming up with them rapidly : — the signals 
were flying along shore for an enemy : — we could see 
them manning the Batteries ; and bringing field pieces 

down on the beach to protect the convoy : to our 

great mortification, the whole of them got into the harbour 
of St. Gilles, and the gun boat ran up a creek, and stuck 

on the mud : we followed them into the harbour, and 

brought out two Sloops laden with sour wine : — not a 
shot touched us, although within range of musquetry : — 
They fired a gread deal, but very bad : — Cutting out 
vessels from their Harbours, was carried on in such a 
daring manner, that, something very extraordinary must 
be performed, before it would be thought worthy of a letter 
to the Admiralty : — Boats were continually landing on 
the coast ; destroying Ships, — Batteries and telegraph 
stations : — 

" However small and contemptible a prize maybe : — the 
moment she appears alongside the Captor : — It affords 
a degree of pleasure ; and gives a zest, to pass away a 
night watch : — when these two miserable craft came along- 
side the Rambler, every body was on deck calculating 
their share of prize money ; which promised at least, 
Seven-pence-farthing a man : — If they had been burnt, as 
was proposed ; I should have had the blessed satisfaction, 
of escaping a ten years Captivity : — 

" Fate however would have it ; — that I should proceed 
in one of them as prize master to England ; — and act 
as Commodore over the other, which was navigated by 
a Quarter Master; — Five men and a boy were put on 
board of each, with three weeks provisions, and water, for 
the voyage. 

" The boat was to have returned, with some implements 
of Navigation ; but a squall came on, and continued to 


blow so hard ; that, we lost sight of the Brig as well as the 
other sloop ; — Here we were quite adrift in the Bay of 
Biscay ; — in a craft with rotten sails, — without Log-line, — 

glass, — or a Quadrant, and a precious dull sailer to 

the bargain. 

" The next morning Just after sun-rise, the sky appeared 
all round the horizon of a deep red ; a sure sign of a Gale 
of wind ; — we had made about fifty miles during the night, 
and expected to see Belisle, but the weather was so thick, 
that, it was impossible to see more than four or five miles 
distant; — This morning is too deeply engraved on my 
memory ever to be forgotten : — It fell calm during the 
first part of the morning watch ; with a heavy swell from 
the WNW— 

" About eight o'clock, we heard the distant thunder 

rolling in long peals; the sea emitted a strong rank 

smell ; — — the sea birds were flying in all directions 

towards the shore, to avoid the approaching gale ; 

mother Carey's chicken alone remained, and seemed to 
enjoy the weather, and kept in the wake of our miserable 
craft ; — we first battened down all the hatches, and sent 
all moveables below, to prevent their being washed over- 
board ; — 

"About ten o'clock, the gale broke on us — in all its 
fury ; — the sea rose like mountains ; — and the balanced 
reefed — mainsail, was all we could show to the gale. — we 
knew to our sorrow; that we were not far from the French 
coast ; and moreover ; not above fifteen miles from a 
dangerous shoal, that lies off the mouth of the River Loire; 
and, that we were driving bodily down on it ; — the weather 
gave us no uneasiness : — it was sea room we wanted : — 
The sloop, had a kind of Jerking motion, that made us all 
sea sick : — About one o'clock ; a tremendous sea broke 
over us, and put out all our fire, and left us without any 
hopes of rekindling it again ; so long as the gale lasted : — 
— Our dinner was raw salt pork and biscuit ; — we reefed 
our Jib and foresail — and endeavoured to set them, that 


we might carry off shore : — but the moment we attempted 
to hoist them, they were split to atoms ; — nor were there 

any spare ones on board ; 1 had sent the men down 

below to their suppers ; — where, during the short time 
of a Quarter of an hour, they had broken open the liquor 
case, and each man had taken a Case bottle, that held 
about two quarts, — and drank almost to suffocation : — 
They prevented the boy from going on deck, for fear that 
he would inform me of it ; — They said it was better to die 
happy than be smothered in salt water; — when I went 
below, they all appeared black, from the quantity of spirits 
they had taken ; — I untied their neckcloths and left them 
to their fate : — 

" During two hours, myself and the boy were endeavour- 
ing to procure a light for the binnacle ; but all in vain ; — 
— About twelve o'clock, as I guessed by feeling the hands 
of my watch, we saw the dreadful breakers on the shoal to 
leeward : — The storm seemed rather to increase than 
otherwise : — The lightning like streams of fire : — and the 
thunder was so loud, that at each crack ; the sloop trembled 

as if she had the ague. The breakers that we saw, 

formed the edge of the sand bank ; and extended from 
our lee bow, to our lee quarter, and not above a mile and 
a half distant — It shone like silver ; and the light reflecting 
from it : formed a grand, bat awful contrast with the red 
forked Lightning — I went below to see if I could rouse up 
the drunkards : — that they might assist in doing something 
towards saving our lives ; — but they were still quite sense- 
less ; 1 then assisted the boy in closing up every part 

of the vessel : we were now near enough to hear the 

noise of those tremendous breakers ; whose roar, nearly 
drowned that of the thunder : — I then lashed the boy to 
the taffrail, and myself to the helm, — offered up a silent ; 
but fervent prayer to the great ruler of all our destinies ; 

begging his assistance in this trying occasion ; 1 

managed to get the vessel before the wind, and steered 
her towards the place that seemed to have the least surf : — 


I did this from the Idea ; — that, — if she had driven bodily 
down on the Bank ; one of those heavy seas would have 
rolled her right over, — and drowned us at once. — 

" On our approaching the breakers ; my mind was calm 
and resigned ; — Death seemed to keep right in our wake : — 
The first sea that struck us ; came towering with roaring 
foam, right over the stern; — its weight pressed the poor 
little bark down into the sea ; and although loaded with 
water, sent her flying along at a furious rate : — 

" Here I lost all recollection for the moment ; — but 
when I recovered my senses ; — I found myself on the deck 
under the tiller; — my stomach full of salt water, and 

sorely bruised about the head and arms : 1 looked 

round for the poor boy, who I saw still fast to the taffrail, 
but, to all appearance lifeless ; — I soon unloosed myself, 
and went to his assistance : — He in a short time recovered 

sufficiently to walk about : we were in smooth water 

and three fathoms : — we tried to get up a range of cable, 
and come to an anchor ; but we had not strength enough 
to do it ; — we soon drifted upon some rocks, where we lay 
rolling on them until daylight : — when we saw the land 
about two miles distant : — we hoisted french colours, and 
in an hour after two boats came off and took us out of the 
vessel, and landed us at a small fishing Town, called 
Pouliguin, on the left side of the entrance of the River 

Loire ; prior to the boats coming off our drunkards 

were on the move, and came on deck : — when I reproached 

them with their infamous conduct ; seeing that they 

would soon be prisoners, — they became insolent beyond 

bearing : They snapped their fingers at me, saying, 

that ashore in France Jack was as good as his master. — 

"The moment we landed, the whole place was in an 
uproar ; one would have thought that they had taken 
a Seventy four ; — every thing was stolen from us except- 
ing the clothes we had on, and my watch : — we had the 
satisfaction of seeing them shared out, among a set of 
ragged rascals : — Thus departed my poor five years gather- 


ing : — We were led in triumph through this little dirty 
Town to the Jail : — and put in altogether on some dirty 
straw swarming with vermin : — 

" We remained here three days, to determine in which 
way we were to be sent to Nantz : — at last, it was decided, 
that we should go by water in a Chasse Marie, under the 
escort of some veteran soldiers. — 

;< I forgot to mention that the day I landed I was so 
weak from the fatigues I had undergone, — (and not yet 
arrived at manhood being — scarcely sixteen years of age) 
that I soon fell asleep on the straw ; — and in spite of the 
myriads of fleas and lice ; — I went over in my dreams the 
horrors of the preceding night, and suffered mentally, 
the same as I had before in reality. — 

" The morning of our departure I sold my watch for 
ten crowns ; — worth as many pounds ; — ' necessity has no 

law we were only allowed a pound and a half of coarse 

bread per diem ; with part of this money, I purchased 

from a soldier, four of my own shirts, and a pair of 
trowsars: — Just as we were about to depart, to our astonish- 
ment and Joy, we were Joined by the crew of the other 
sloop ; — they had been wrecked on another part of the 
coast, the same night of ourselves : — we congratulated 
each other in being in the land of the living : — and were 
now twelve in number : — 

" Twelve veteran soldiers were appointed to escort us to 
Nantz, commanded by a serjeant. — we went on board 
a fine Chasse Marie, and set off with a leading wind and a 
flood tide, expecting to arrive at Nantz in the evening. — It 
was about twelve o'clock, that the soldiers were seated at 
dinner round their soupe aux haricots, — and only one 
sentry sat before us as a guard : — we were all in the hold 
on account of its being a drizzling rainy day ; — and they 
put their musquets and bayonets in one corner of the hold 

out of the wet ; while they were at dinner ; 

we seized the opportunity, and in a moment each of 
us had a musquet and bayonet and the soldiers our 


prisoners ; — but our victory was nearly wrested from us, 
by the crew upon deck putting on the hatch, and running 
the Vessel towards the shore : — we soon burst it open, and 

fairly took possession without any blood shed ; The 

tide had turned, and we were making rapid strides towards 
the open sea ; — in a little more than two hours, we were 

near the place from whence we started ; unfortunately, 

we saw a boat go off to a Brig Privateer, that was Just 

come in from sea : we had the mortification to see this 

fellow, slip his cable and make sail in chace of us ; — It 
was impossible to escape from her, as she sailed like the 
wind — when he came alongside they began peppering us 
with musquetry : — we were soon taken possession of, and 
sent on board the Brig ; where we were put in irons as a 
security for the future. — 

" We remained in the hold of the privateer — (she was 
called La Nantois, until about three in the afternoon of 
the next day, when we finally arrived at Nantz ; — The 
news of our taking the Chasse Marie had already preceded 
us ; — but like all stories, gained as it was told : — at last, it 
was confidentially reported, that we had murdered all the 
crew and soldiers : — however, that was soon settled when 
we landed; — the peoples hatred was soon changed from 
us ; to contempt for their own countrymen, who like 
ourselves marched off to Prison : — 

" Situated as I was, it cannot be reasonably expected 
that I should give a fine description of the City of 

Nantz : the greatest novelty that I saw ; was myself 

walking through the streets at the head of my men 
handcuffed : — When we arrived at the Prison, we were put 
into a Court-yard ; — where a mottley crew of Conscripts, — 
Thieves, and other ragged blackguards, were amusing 
themselves singing republician songs, and killing vermin, — 
which we knew from experience, was as numerous as the 
sand in the sea ; — we were greeted as companions ; — and one 
fellow, stepped forward in the name of the rest to demand 
our footing ; — ten sols from each was the demand : — First 


of all, we were as poor as Job, and not as much money 

among us as would fetch half the sum : finding that 

we had no money ; — It was suggested, that a shirt or two 
would soon find the amounts ; — all would not do, — we 
sent the fellow about his business : — This fellow soon 
returned from his companions saying — That since we had 
no money to give, or would not give it ; — That we must 
empty their tubs, and sweep the yard ; — and he actually 
presented me with a broom — I took it ; and gave him such 
a crack on the head with the hard end of it, — that it sent 
him reeling for several paces, — this settled the business, — 
for the rest of the gentry seeing the result of the nogcia- 
tion, politely left it to our generosity for another time. — 

" — We had not been long in the Prison yard, before we 
were all called out into the Jailors appartment — where 
we found General Dumuy, — the Commandant of the 
Town ; — he spoke English remarkably well ; — after many 
questions relative to the Chasse Marie, he proposed our 
entering into the French service ; — That I should be a 
Lieutenant de Vaisseau ; and all my men made master 

gunners; we rejected his proposal with indignation, 

and felt proud of the opportunity of doing it ; — so we all 
retired to our Straw : — 

" The place where we were confined : was a large 
room; — and about fifty in Number, frenchmen and all; — 
The Jailor was good enough to give us a few bundles 
of clean straw ; — but the corner allotted for us, was at the 
further end from the window, — and where the Tub was 

placed ; in the middle of the night we were nearly 

suffocated by the stench ; — and although we had clean 

straw, the vermin were devouring us alive : In the 

morning, a fresh effluvia saluted our noses, — Garlic, stink- 
ing oil, and tobacco : at last about eight o'clock w r e 

were all let out into the Court-yard, — and it took us nearly 

an hour to rid our clothes of the vermin, after that, — we 

had a regular good wash at the pump. — Then to Breakfast 
on our Brown Bread : 1 had been amusing myself 


reading the names of many poor wretches who had suffered 

during the Revolution ; hundreds were cut out on the 

walls, — especially in reference to that Villain Fouche\ — 
who used to take the poor unfortunate Royalists out on the 
River tie them two and two, — a Male and a Female ; then 
drown them ; — this mode of Death, he called Le Marriage 
de Nantes ; — among the many things on the walls, I 
remarked those two lines — 

" ' On dit que, en se mariant, que l'on a tort ; 

Mais ; en se mariant a Nantes, Ton trouvo la mort.' 

" All of a sudden I lost sight of all my crew, nor could I 
find them any — where ; — I enquired of the Jailor about 
them, — who informed me, that General Dumuy had sent 
for them and that they were all going into the French 

service ; shocked at this intelligence and fearful they 

might be enticed and bribed away from their Duty 1 

immediately told the Jailor that I was going also, and 

wondered why they had not sent for me. ' Come 

along with me said he and I'll take you to the General ; — 
I went with him to the Generals house and found my 
men, standing round a Table with about twenty french 

crowns piled up before each of them. Seeing this ; 

I was convinced, that without some effort on my side, that 

I should lose them : five of them had actually agreed 

to enter ; — these were Irish : — The General thought that I 
was come to offer myself for the french Service and 
accept his promise of being a Lieutenant de Vaisseau, but 
I soon convinced him to the contrary : 

" I, said to him — General Dumuy, — I am sorry to find 
the French Navy so hard up for men that you are obliged 
to have — recource to the necessity, of sollicking the 

services of your greatest enemy the English ; Those 

men that you are trying so much to coax, that they may 
become Traitors to their King and Country, cannot be 
faithful to you : — for if they will not serve their own, they 
will not serve yours : — and let me tell you Sir — That this 


proceeding is neither fair nor honorable, and it is beneath 

the dignity of a General ; And as for you ye Traitors, 

and unworthy of the name of Englishmen, and British 
Seamen — can you hesitate between honor and treachery? — 
Return back to the prison, and show that you are ashamed 
of what you have done ; — and that there still remains a 
spark of british feeling : — show yourselves worthy of your 

noble King and Country. But if on the other hand, 

any-one of you, enter into this detestable service ; depend 
upon it, you will all be brought to Justice one day or 

other and If I die on the road ; my Ghost shall haunt 

you, until I drive all your necks into the halter Rude 

as my appeal was it had the desired effect, — I brought 
them all back with me to Prison. — 

" The next morning, we were ordered to prepare for our 
march to the depot at Verdun, — five hundred miles 

distant : The manner of our departure, was a fac simile 

of all the rest, with very little difference : At eight 

o'clock in the morning on the 21st of August 1804 — the 
Gen-d'armes came and demanded our bodies of the 
Jailor; — — while the serjeant was signing the receipts, 
and other papers; — his comrades were busily employed, in 
putting us on the handcuffs, and chaining us two and 
two : — and really they did it so very dexterously, that 
I think they must have been quite accustomed to it. — 

" The prison doors were thrown open, and out we 
marched ; — each of us had our dinner under the arm — 
a brown loaf — we passed through a great part of the Town 

before we were on the high road ; and soon began to 

feel the effects of walking ; — we had scarcely proceeded 
above ten miles, when we found ourselves so exausted, 
that we despaired reaching the prison, where we were to 
halt for the night : — — the miserable remains of our 

money, the men had spent in brandy : most of them 

were so drunk that a cart was hired to take them on ; — the 
others that could walk, were obliged to get on suffering 
heat, hunger, — fatigue, and 111 usage: — It was nearly eight 


o'clock before we entered the prison ; — consequently too 
late to rid ourselves of some of the vermin with which we 
were swarming :-- -Now it was that we began to feel real 

" Our pound and a half of bread was served out to 
us every evening as we entered the prison ; — It was the 
same they gave to the soldiers ; — sometimes good, some- 
times bad, — but at all times no great things : — as for 
water, t'was brought for us in buckets like watering 
horses : — stick our heads into it and swig heartily. 

" On entering our prison, we were put into the Con- 
demned cells, allotted for felons and galley slaves : — It was 
at the back of the military bakehouse :— and at that time, 
in full glow to make bread for four thousand troops, that 
were to pass through, the next day, on their way to the 
Camp at Boulogne : — I cannot describe what I suffered 
that night : — but can only compare it with the Black Hole 

in Calcutta : It was during the dog days, and the 

natural heat was upwards of 85 but that which struck 

through the walls from the ovens, was beyond endurance 

we agreed to take it in turns to breathe at the grated 

window ; and those who retired therefrom, had recource 
to bathing their heads in a bucket of water — sleep was out 
of the question — the myriads of fleas and lice, added to 
our misery — 

" In this horrible situation, we were kept twelve hours ; 
— for it was past eight o'clock before the gen' d'armes 
came for us : — several of the men appeared lifeless : — both 
from their recent drunkenness, — and what they had suffered 
during the night, — were obliged to be carried into a Cart — 
and to crown all ; — every one was in a fair way, of being 

ate up by the Itch ; It would be useless for me, to 

relate every trivial circumstance that occurred during six 
weeks march ; — and, in the most filthy, loathsome, 
prisons ; — suffering a repetition in every respect. — In 
going through any of the Towns ; not the least sentiment 
of feeling, or compassion was shown us ; — not even by the 


sex, whose finer feelings might give way to pity now and 
then ; — but on the contrary : — the revolution had changed 
their dispositions therefore ; nothing in point of good 
nature could be expected from them. — As for the men ; 
they looked on it as a matter of course : — God knows what 
their policy was, for taking us through most of the streets, 
of every Town we passed through — no doubt, but it was 

to make a public exibition of us. When I landed, 

I fortunately put on a new suit of Clothes ; but from 
lying in so many fifthy prisons, they began to look very 
bad ; — my shoes were worn off my feet ; nor had I the 
means of procuring another pair ; — the men were the 
same. — In fact, we looked like a set of half starved miser- 
able wretches, instead of British seamen : — Yet ; still the 
heart of oak remained. — 

" Our route was along the banks of the Loire, whose 
beaut) - and scenery, — -I will leave for others to describe, 

who have nothing but pleasure to think of. From 

the delays we met with on the road, it was more than five 
weeks before we reached Tours : — our feet were cut in 
a most shocking manner ; and the mud had got in, by way 
of filling up the chinks ; — ever since our departure from 
Nantz, we existed on our brown bread and water. — 

" On our arrival at Tours, we were told, that we were 
to remain there five days. — The Prison was spacious, — 
the rooms good and airy, — the straw clean, — and a kind 
Jailor who spoke a little English ; — he gave us some 
onions to eat with our brown bread, — and six bottles of 

small wine ; In the course of the evening, he informed 

me that there was a rich Englishman residing at Tours ; — 
This was glorious news for us ; — I wrote a note to him, — 

and he came into the Prison about ten o'clock, we 

were all asleep on our straw, when our doors were un- 
locked ; and I was immediately taken by the hand and led 
forth, (all my men following) to the Jailors appartment 
by this worthy countryman; — It was a Mr. Cane, well 
known at Tours for every virtue that could grace the 


human heart : — I related to him briefly my shipwreck ; — 
and the treatment I had undergone since: — during this 
interval of time, the Jailor was preparing a pork chop for 
each of us ; — and some good wine : — we all sat down 
together : but, my heart was so full of Joy and grief, 
mingled, that I could eat nothing ; — It was the first time 
since our landing, that we experienced either kindness 
or pity; — all my men were in tears, and their honest 
hearts, gave full vent to feelings of gratitude, and thank- 
fulness, to this good Samaritan ; — I took a glass of warm 
wine, — bade good Night to Mr. Cane who was to come 
again the next morning ; — and we all retired to good beds, 
that were prepared for each of us ; — however welcome 
a bed might be, — considering, that I had slept on nothing 
but straw, — I felt extremely uncomfortable ; — I kept toss- 
ing, and turning, from one side to the other : — at last, 
I took a blanket and a pillow, — laid myself down on the 
brick floor ; — and in few minutes was fast asleep ; — The 
next morning about nine o'clock, Mr. Cane came and took 
me out into town, under his responsibility, by permission 

from the Prefect.- My clothes were in good order ; — 

my shoes, were made of soft leather not to hurt my feet. — 
I was introduced to his family, whose kindness and atten- 
tion I shall never forget : — After breakfast, we went to the 
Sousprefect, — who paid me up all my marching money ; 
which ought to have been given me at Nantz : — I received 

Seven pounds : — and each of my men thirty shillings : 

We remained here about ten days, — quite sufficient to 
recruit our strength : — and before we set out ; — I received 
more money on my own private account — by — a bill on 
my Friends ; — with plenty money in my pockets — I was 

become my lord anglais ; We bade a grateful adieu to 

Mr. Cane, and his Family; — and set out for the first time, 
without our hand-cuffs, and strength regained by our good 

living at Tours : We got on extremely well for the 

first five or six miles ; but sailor like : the men would 

stop and drink brandy grog, at every — public house on the 


road ; — and were generally drunk before they entered the 

Prisons : They invariably marched better when drunk, 

than sober; — in one case — they would stagger, and roll 
along, either quarrelling or singing ; — while on the other 
hand, they would move on as sulkeyas Mules, and only go 
by driving. — 

" The scenery on the banks of the Loire appeared now 
to us, really beautiful and enchanting ; — the Islands in the 
midst of the River, looked like emeralds set in silver : — 
here the peasantry on a Sunday, retires from their daily 
occupations — to enjoy the rustic dance. 

" Every necessary of life is extremely cheap in this part 
of the country : — with a small income, a family may live 
quite respectable, comfortable, and happy : — Bread, Fruit, 
and vegetables, may be had almost for nothing : — a large 
Turkey, or a goose of Ten pounds weight, may be had for 

Two shillings : Three days after we left Tours we 

arrived at Orleans ; and put into the most filthy prison 
we had ever been in yet. — There were about Sixty wretches 
half naked, and full of vermin and the stench was equal to 
the one at Nantz : — when the Jailor brought us in our 
bread ; — I let him know, that we could afford to pay for 
a supper and another appartment : — on this information, 
he let us out of that wretched den of misery, into a good 
and comfortable room to dine in ; and showed us another, 

with more beds made up in it than we wanted : The 

next morning I was surprized by a visit from an English 
gentleman, Mr. Hewitson Surgeon in His Majesty's 
Navy ; — under whose responsibility I went into Town, and 
was introduced to his family, also to a Mr. Thomp- 
son, M.P. — who was there for the benefit of his health, 
and not made a detenue of ! ! — 

" In passing by the market place, I was struck with the 
beautiful statue of Joan d'Arc ; — it is of brass gilded ; — 
She has a breast plate, — and a helmet, — with a Spear 
in one hand, and a shield in the other ; — the attitude 
seems advancing ; — and leading on the troops to raise the 


siege of Orleans ; 1 afterwards visited the part of 

the walls still remaining, — where British valour sank under 
superstition ; — and gave fresh courage to the broken spirits 
of the French. — Here began the disasters of the English 
army, who but a short time before, possessed nearly the 
whole of France, — could not with all their valor, stand 
before an obscure female ; — nor could the renowned 
Bedford, — Talbot, or Suffolk, — whose prowess stands un- 
rivalled in the annals of history ; — ever restore — the green 
to their faded laurels. — 

" Orleans is a very fine and populous City : — The 
inhabitants are industrious, — lively, and affable ; — The 
country around delightful ; — abounding in fish and game ; 
— The forests are well stored with wild boar and Deer ; — 
But much infested with Wolves, that make dreadful havoc 
in the winter : — The hills are covered with vineyards ; — 
and the roads on each side, are planted with Apple and 
Pear trees, for the benefit of the weary traveller. — 

" We left Orleans ; and in three days after arrived at 
Melun ; — where as usual, we were put into the court-yard 
among a set of thieves, and other such rabble : — but here, 
a scene took place, which I will describe : — 

" It is a customary thing, on entering a prison, the old 
stationers exact a footing from the new comers ; — but this 
Prison, seemed more rigid in the observance of these rules, 
than any other ; — consequently, Two fellows stepped 
forward, to demand from each of us, twenty sols : — — 
Considering ourselves as honourable prisoners of war, we 
were determined never to submit to this regulation, that, 
only concerned rascals like themselves — 

" On our decided refusal, the whole of the Frenchmen 

stepped forward to enforce it : — we were twelve ; they 

were twenty two : we saw the storm gathering, and of 

course we prepared for action ; — we entrenched ourselves 
in one corner, and stood ready to receive the attack ; — the 
weapons we used were, — a stone tied in one corner of 
a handkerchief; — this proved a most dreadful one — nor 


were our antagonists aware of our being so well armed. 

The battle began on their side, with a discharge of wooden 
shoes ; — then they attempted to board us in the smoke ; — 
but were repulsed with an * Irish coat of arms on some 
of them — they grew desperate, and being double our 
number, — and ourselves tired from a long days march ; — 
we were about to beat a parley : — when the door opened, — 
and in came nine more Englishmen ! — They joined us : 
and at it we went with fresh vigour, and in two minutes 

more, John Bull — triumphed over Johnny Crapaud 

our reinforcement, were the Crew of a Collier, taken by a 
french privateer, and were on their road to Verdun like 
ourselves. — mutual congratulations took place between us, 
and a good dinner, and wine, made us forget this memor- 
able battle of — ' Wooden Shoes We wondered why the 

Jailor did not interfere, and prevent such conduct among 
his prisoners ; — but, we soon knew the reason ; — It was his 
policy to encourage it, as the money, found its way into 
his pockets. 

"The next day, we all set out together; — and 
traversed a wide extensive tract of Country, very thinly 
cultivated, excepting near the Villages, — which in general 
were filled with nothing but old men, — women and 
children ; — all the young men, were gone to the army 

encamped at Boulogne — for England : In two days 

we arrived at Chalons Sur-Marne — The weather was 
extremely warm, and we had been marching in the heat of 
the sun, which made us perspire very much ; and very 
languid — on our entering the Prison yard, I was so thirsty, 
that I took a copious draught of cold spring water — in the 
night I was seized with fever, which terminated in ague. — 
notwithstanding my illness, — I was taken on to Verdun in 
a Cart on some straw, still exposed to a burning sun — I 
suffered this way two days ; and two more prisons : before 
I arrived at our depot, and among our countrymen. — 

" 111 as I was, I was obliged to crawl up to the Citadel 
* A — bloody nose — supported by two black eyes. 


and sign my parole : — after that, I went into Town and 
found a comfortable lodging. 

" My fever was now so severe, that I was obliged to 
have medical attendance and it was two months before I 
could venture out, especially since the winter had set in 
with unusual severity. — 

" An exchange of prisoners was naturally expected by 
every body, but, a death blow was given to all our hopes, 
by Buonaparte declaring, that he would not exchange the 

Prisoners during the war ! with this fine prospect I 

set too with a will, to learn the language, and what I 
thought most necessary and useful to my profession. 

" Verdun is a fortified Town in the province of 
Lorraine ; — and in the department of the Meuse. — It 
contains about ten thousand Inhabitants, — who, from 
their republican principles, and their attachment to 
Bounaparte, were great favorites with the mighty man. — 
— It was for this reason, that he sent all the English 

gentlemen, — Officers and Hostages, to enrich it. The 

Governor General Wirrion, was without exception one of 
the greatest rascals on earth, — he stuck at nothing to 
extort money from the miserable prisoners ; — He once 
shut up all the midshipmen, and masters of merchantmen 
in the Convent of St. Vannes : — nor would he let them 
out again, until, every one paid him the sum of thirty six 
francs : — this manoeuvre rose him one thousand pounds 
Stlg ! — Instead of having a regular parole ; — we were 
obliged to muster twice a day, and sign our names in 
a book ! — should any one miss the muster — five shillings 
were demanded, or go to prison for a month ; — In fact, 
every day brought some new measure to screw money 
from us ; and his rapacious understrappers, — followed 
his example on a smaller scale, yet equally annoying. — 

" At this time there were a great number of English 
gentlemen at Verdun ; and many of large fortunes,— so 
that the Town became quite a petit Paris — It gave the 


l s 

r ? 

; j i r i § ■ ti 

i i d& 


Ton all over France for dress and fashion : — The lodgings 
were neat and not very extravagant ; — but every bourgois 
was on the money making plan. — 

" The government had the kindness to send a set of 
black legs from the Palais Royale, who established a 
gambling house, called the Bank. — rouge et noir, and the 
Roulette, were the ruin of many a youth and bright 

prospect. A superb race course, made up the acme of 

their folly : — first of all, they paid most enormously dear 
for the meadow : — the next, a small fee of twenty pounds 
for the attendance of spies and Gens d'armes : — besides 

other expenses. The frenchman alone was wise, in 

pocketting our — money and laughing at our — extrava- 
gance : — Drinking and smoaking Clubs were established 
in different parts of the Town for all classes : — and it was 
in such places as these, the naval youth spent both his 

time and money. One thing must be considered in 

their favor, — that, the most of them were without a guide 
or Friend, to restrain those inclinations so easy to copy, — 
and, without the means of living in the manner they had 
been formerly accustomed to. — Yet, in the most abject 
penury, they always managed to keep up appearances, and 
look as gentlemen : — Many of them, had no more than one 
pound four shillings per month from the French govern- 
ment, to provide themselves with Lodgings, and every 

thing else. The midshipmen were also the most ill 

used : — and almost continually in confinement — either 
from the caprice of the Governor, or from the desertion 
of some of the class, for which, all were sure to suffer. — 
I can say from experience, that during ten years that 
I was a prisoner ; Seven were passed in confinement. 

" There was a committee established at Verdun, for the 
management of the monies, arising from the numerous 
subscriptions of our countrymen in England, — But, 
instead of its being placed in the hands of an officer of 
rank, and a prisoner of war ; — it was solely in the power 
of individuals, who were detained in the country : — conse- 


quently, could have no matter of right whatever with it. — 
as it was solely subscribed for the Prisoners of war ; — but 
it was only among a set of scoundrels, who never dared 
show their faces again in England ; that this money was 
distributed — There were a number of Despards gang ; such 
as Taylors, and shoemakers, who all received a monthly 
allowance ; — a fellow by the name of Green, who boasted 
of having been a highway robber, and had an arm 
broke by a shot from a pistol, in attempting to rob a 
gentleman : here he was in no dread of the gallows : — 
being made clerk of the race course ! — and received a 
monthly allowance, from the honorable prisoners fund, 
sufficient to keep him and his girl ! — A major of the 
marines, having his half pay, — also received three pounds 
sterling per month. — Another broken down gentleman by 
the name of R — s — d — received three pounds, per month ; 
but his feelings were wounded beyond measure, at his 

name appearing on the charitable list. not one of the 

poor midshipmen who were the most entitled to it, ever 

received a farthing although, their relations and 

Friends subscribed handsomely towards it, with the inten- 
tion, most certainly, that they would receive their portion. — 
" In September 1805, Bounaparte passed through 
Verdun at the head of a hundred thousand troops ; — and 
six weeks after, he made his triumphant entry into 
Vienna. — These rapid conquests seemed to rivet our 
chains the closer, and, that the war would only end with 
his life. — It was also about the month of November, that 
we heard of the Battle of Trafalgar ; where the immortal 
Nelson closed his career of glory : — at this time, all the 
midshipmen to the number of about seventy, were confined 
in a Convent — at the Citadel. — a subscription was rose 
among us, to have a supper and wine : — and although, far 
from home, and borne down by misfortunes, we partice- 
pated in the Joy of the Victory ; — and drank a silent 
bumper to the memory of Nelson. — The French papers 
claimed the victory, and in many parts of France, were 


public rejoicings on account of it ! and many are no 
wiser to this day. — 

" Many of the prisoners had been fortunate enough, to 
make their escape and reach England in safety. — our 
depot of confinement was so far inland, that there was 
no prospect of getting away, excepting by the way of 
Germany. — I had been three years a prisoner, out of that, 
T had been two years confined in the Citadel : — in fact, all 
the midshipmen were, — with the exception of some two or 
three : who were always permitted to remain unmolested ; 
— there were reasons for that piece of indulgence, best 
known to themselves. — 

" An order arrived at Verdun from the Minister of war, 
to remove all the midshipmen to Sarre-libre, — Valen- 
ciennes, and Givet, in three divisions. — and there to 
remain in confinement during the war. — Two divisions 
had already marched off — I was among the last, and was 
to have gone off like the rest — in a few days more. — But, 
under these circumstances, — I determined with a friend 

Doctor W m Porteus, of making our escape. Parole 

was out of the question when we were obliged to muster 
twice a day ; — and subject to the caprices of the Governor 
to shut us up — whenever he pleased : from the Idea only, 
of raising a sum of money, to give us our liberty again. — 
Here I knew from the Generals Secretary himself; that I 
was going to be shut up in a Barracks for the rest of the 
war ; which seemed never to be at an end : — consequently 
— I started with the hopes of soon reaching our dear 

Native Land. We had no difficulty in procuring every 

thing we wanted ; — such as money, provisions, and charts 
of the departments. — On the 8 th of October 1807 — about 
half past eight in the evening, we succeeded in getting 
down the ramparts by a rope ; — the Doctor got down 
first, — but the rope broke with me, when I was half way 
down ; — I fell in among some stones and sprained an 
ancle : — The noise alarmed one of the centinels, — a raw 
conscript, who only cried out ' qui vive. — 


" I got up and limped along, and although in great pain, 
I managed to walk seven Leagues that night ; — before 
daylight we were under the walls of the Town of St. 
Mihiel, a Town on the River Meuse. we found our- 
selves the wrong side of the river for shelter — we crossed 
it, although very cold, and got into a thick wood, where 

we remained in perfect security during the day. It 

rained incessantly ; — the Trees afforded us no shelter, — on 
the contrary, the droppings were worse than the rain. — 
about nine o'clock, — we heard the report of two guns fired 
from the Citadel of Verdun, announcing the desertion of 
two prisoners of war ; — This notice sets all the peasantry 
on the alert, as the reward for our apprehension is worth 

receiving, — about four pounds for each. We remained 

in this wood the whole day ; — we could see the road, 
and the Gens d'arms scouring along in all directions 
in pursuit of us — we were determined to stick to the 
bye roads — only. — 

" We did not leave the wood until it was quite dark ; — 
It was extremely cold, and we were wet through to the 

skin ; on the road towards Commercy, — we heard 

several people behind us, coming on at smart pace, and 
talking rather loud ; — — fearing that the might be 
Gens d'armes — we layed down in a ditch behind some 
bushes : — they were labourers returning from their work ; 
their conversation was about ourselves and that there 
were Soldiers out in all directions looking for us ; — and 

that we had been seen on the road to Nancy. We 

were obliged to go through this Town, or return back 
to the wood. — It was raining very hard, and the night 
dark and stormy : — therefore, we concluded that no one 
would venture out to look after us, especially on an 

uncertainty. Just as we were entering the town, we 

heard some horsemen coming out towards us ; — there was 
no shelter ; — a wall was on one side, and a Mill stream on 
the other : — we had not a moment to spare, — we went into 
the water up to the Middle, and hid ourselves behind the 


Mill wheel: — They were fourGend'armes, — and one of them 
actually rode into the stream to water his horse : — and was 
not five paces more from where we stood, shivering with 
fear and cold : — he went on after the others and we came 

out of our hiding place ; wet as we were, we passed 

through the Town in a rapid quick march, and soon gained 
the high road to Vocoleurs — the birth place of Joan 
d'Arc — We had walked nearly Six leagues, and were not 
far from the Town, but unfortunately missed the bridge 
in the dark, and went on two miles out of our road towards 
Bar-le-duc. — — There was a small public house on the 
road — and we ventured to knock to get some rest and 
refreshment if we could ; — we knocked again : — when a 

Sturdy old man of about fifty let us in as soon as he 

lit the lamp, — and looked at us, — he said, — I know who 
you are Gentlemen, — but be tranquil, — you are safe in my 
house ; — we did not relish this reception at first, but we 
had no reason to complain ; — on the contrary providence 
guided us there to a friend ; — his wife got up and soon 

made a blazing fire ; we had some supper of bacon and 

eggs — Country fare everywhere. — The old man persuaded 
us to go to bed, and that he would call us about daylight, 
— and be our guide for the next two leagues — we followed 

his advice, and slept three hours : this quite renovated 

us, and the old woman had dried all our clothes. Just 

before daylight, we set out with the old man as our guide, 
and passed through Vocoleurs, without seeing any one — 
— He mentioned that, the Gendarmes had been to his 
house the day before, and told him of our desertion from 
Verdun ; — and if we should happen to enter his house 

during the night, to inform them of it. He had 

lost three sons in the army, — and his eldest the only 
one left was saved from the cruelty of the Russians under 
General Swarrow in Italy, by an English officer who 
happened to be in that service ; — for — that very reason, he 
would always like the english and stand their Friend 
whenever he had an opportunity;- — he took us through 


many bye ways — for about six miles, then pointed us out 
the road — advising us to repose at villages, now and then 
without fear. — We rewarded him for his trouble ; — and 
thanked him besides ; — he left us to return home and we 
to pursue our journey. 

" We saw a village on our right, that seemed to be one 
where we might repose ourselves for the day : — as our 

marching must be all night work : — we went and 

found it as we wished — A clean comfortable auberge, and no 
Gendarmes in the environs : — we breakfasted on Coffee 
and eggs ; — then went to bed leaving orders to be called at 

four o'clock. Here we reposed most delightfully ; but 

four o'clock came much quicker than we expected ; — we 
got up quite refreshed and made a hearty dinner. — 

" It was Sunday, and the lads of the village with their 
Lasses, were dancing quadrilles under the Tree of Liberty 
while others were enjoying themselves with some twopenny 
wine ; — We passed for young Students returning home 
from Paris ; — and to avoid suspicion, we Joined in, and had 
one dance, then bade them good night. — 

" It was about eight o'clock before we set out from this 
hospitable village : — but, it was one of the most beautiful 
moon light nights that ever shone out of the heavens : — 
The road we were travelling, is not a common one ; — 
consequently, not much known to our T:Gs at the present 
period ; and yet, it is one of the most beautiful for scenery 
in France — it is chiefly through immense forests ; — we 
were sorry that imperious necessity compelled us to travel 
by night, otherwise, we could have given some description 
of the Country : — This night was perfectly calm, not a 

breath of wind sufficient to shake a leaf. There is an 

awful charm, in passing through a dark forest : — The 
moon only seen at intervals through the Trees. — Here 
it was for the first time, that we heard the dreadful 
howlings of the wolf : — which was answered by others at a 
distance : — sometimes, he seemed quite close to us, — and 
several times we heard the rustling of his passing through 


the brush wood : — Then an owl with Too-whoo — would 
Join the concert, — then all would be still again for a few 
minutes : 

" Doctor and I kept on walking, and talking, — and at 
eleven o'clock we were twelve miles from the village from 
whence we started, — and passed through the Town of 
Colombia, and at Two we arrived at Vezilize. — 

" It was in this dismal and dirty Town, that we were 
bothered for nearly an hour ; — so difficult it appeared to 
find the right road again — In fact, it was a complete laby- 
rinth — and not a soul stirring to give us a clue ; — It was now 
getting dark and foggy, — our feet sore and rather swelled, 

the smallest stone in our way was an annoyance. — 

I was laughing at the doctor having hurt his toe against a 
large stone : — he was dancing on one leg, swearing against 

the Town and the fellow that built it ; Come along 

doctor said I, — we'll soon get out of this dirty hole : — I 
had scarcely proceeded ten yards, before I fell over a 
Plough, into as soft and stinking a dunghill as ever graced 
a dirty Village ; — It was now the doctors turn to laugh 
in good earnest; — I was in a pretty pickle, and stunk most 
melodiously : — luckily, we were once more on the right 
road, — and I knew, that there was a small river that 
crossed the road at a very short distance : — Here I had 
a good wash, but was obliged to walk with my clothes wet 
through. — The fog came on thick and heavy, and we were 
on a long and dreary Common ; — the moon had set and 
left us — completely in the dark — The town we were 
pushing forward to; — was fifteen miles off: — much too 

far to expect being there before daylight ; we therefore 

anxiously looked forward to some house, or any other 
shelter for the day. — 

" The fog was now become so heavy that it settled like 
rain on us, and had such an effect on our eyelids, that, 
it was with the greatest difficulty we could keep them 
open : — our usual gaiety had entirely left us, and we were 
marching along in silence ; — our feet were extremely sore, 


and blistered. — We walked on, in a state of stupor, — 
overpowered with sleep pain and fatigue ; — many times 
I slept as I went, and I was often dreaming. — 

" At last, we could stand it no longer, but down we sat 
at the foot of a large Tree on the road side, and in a 
moment were fast asleep : — the doctor awoke first, roused 
me up, and represented the consequence of sleeping in 
this heavy fog. — 

" We made several efforts to rise, but had not the power, 
until we had rubbed our legs and Joints : — at last we got 
underwiegh once more, supporting each other : — with our 
shoes down at heel, crawling along at about two miles per 

hour. The day was Just dawning when we heard a 

cock crow not far from us, — 'twas a welcome sound ; — and 
in a short time we entered an Inn, — had a cup of Coffee 

and went to bed, leaving orders not to be disturbed 

until five o'clock, when we should get up to dinner. — 

" The Idea of soon reaching England, kept up our 
spirits, and the dread of being retaken kept us on the 
alert : — this gave fresh stimulus to our exertions, and 
only looked forward to happier prospects. — 

" Such a night's march — threw us into a very sound 
sleep ; — nor did we think twelve hours too much of it ; — 
— we were called for dinner at the time appointed ; — I 
found my clothes clean, dry, and comfortable, — perfectly 
free from the smell of the dunghill, — having been smoaked 
over a turf fire, thus one evil was made use of to counteract 
another. — 

" We sat down to a most comfortable dinner ; — A boiled 
Capon, a brace of Perdaix aux choux, — and some excellent 
wine ; — our feet were much better, yet a little sore, but 
nothing that could prevent us undertaking another nights 
march which we were about to do. — 

" At seven o'clock we started with fresh vigour, and at 
Nine we passed through the Town of Charmes, and crossed 
the bridge over the Mozelle. — we soon gained the high 
road to Rembervillicr The moon was up, and beauti- 


fully bright : — our route was through a dark wood the 
same kind as the night before : — at twelve, we stopped at 
an auberge procured some supper and went to bed : — at 
at half past two got up again ; — short as the sleep was 
it refreshed us a great deal, — and although, we walked at 
the rate of four miles an hour, we could not reach Rember- 
villier before daylight. — there was no retreat ; — on our 
entering the town we met a peasant, who, for a few sols, 
showed us the way out of the Town, which was rather an 
intricate kind of navigation ; — this saved us a deal of 
trouble. — ■ 

" We stopped as a village to breakfast ; — Here every 
thing seemed changed as if by magic ; — The houses, the 
inhabitants, — language, and manner of living, were quite 
different from what they were the day before: — The 
weomen wore short black petticoats and red stockings ; — 
the german language was spoken with a very peculiar 
twang ; — they had boiled potatoes and butter milk for 
breakfast ; — we were accommodated with coffee — cold fowl 
and eggs — but I could not resist the temptation of a hot 

potatoe ; It was certainly a novelty to see a regular 

Irish breakfast in France after breakfast, we took 

the road again, and for the first time in open daylight: — 
The weather was fine, cool and pleasant, and very few- 
people to be seen : — The Country around was also 
changed : — instead of Oak, Beech and Ash ; — the forests 
were of fir : — -Hills were swelled into mountains, and 

navigable rivers into rapid water falls : Every person 

we now saw on the road was taken for a Gendarme, — like 
the timid deer of the Forest, our ears and eyes were 

constantly on the alert : we w alked on, and arrived at 

a village about twelve o'clock, — the reason why we were 
obliged to stop was, — that our feet were again very sore; — 
the landlord of the Inn advised us to keep them soaking 
in strong pickle, made of salt and cold spring water : — 
we each had a tub full, and kept them in it all the time 
we were at dinner : — we found immediate relief ; — It was 


really astonishing to find how soon the swelling went 
down, and the blisters healed. — we hired a cart from the 
landlord for five francs, to carry us as far as St. Diey nine 
miles distant ; — we set out at seven o'clock, and arrived 
there at nine : — At midnight, we found ourselves at the 
foot of the famous mountain of Bonhomme ; — since we 
left the Cart at St. Diey, we had walked ten miles : — This 
mountain is one of the highest of that chain called les 
Vosges ; It forms the frontiers and barriers of France 
towards Switzerland, and the Tyrol : — they are cf great 

elevation,' — and covered to the summit with firs ; The 

road winds up on the right side of the mountain ; — on the 
other is an immense deep valley, with a rapid stream that 
fell from rock to rock in continual waterfalls : — the road 
rose almost in proportion to the mountain in some places : 
— but in all places was quite easy for carts or carriages : — 
On the sides of the valley were neat Cottages built in the 
swiss style ; — The reflection of the moon against their 
white washed walls, gave this enchanting valley a most 

beautiful appearance : The roads through these passes 

formerly : — were scarcely practicable, but Buonaparte over- 
came all difficulties, and made them as easy, and as safe, 
as any roads in France. — 

" We had been more than five hours walking up this 
mountain ; and it was daylight before that we reached 
the summit of it, where the village of Bonhomme Stands : 
— we were so tired, that we were glad to find an Inn : — we 
took each a large glass of hot wine, then went to bed, 

desiring to be called at three in the afternoon : Our 

host informed us, that there was a very fine old Roman 
Tower at the back of his house : — our curiosity prompted 
us to pay it a visit ; — and really, we were delighted with 
the view from it ; — we could plainly see the Rhine ; — 
Towns, and villages innumerable, both in France and 
Germany : — our dinner was brought there to us, and we 
enjoyed a repast, that might be envied by any-one that is 
fond of the picturesque ; — even Doctor Syntax himself. 


" About six o'clock, we set out again with the hopes of 
getting out of France by daylight in the morning ; — we 
walked on at the rate of four miles per hour; — by one 
o'clock in the morning we had passed through three 
fortified towns ; Kenshiem, Menshiem, and Kaysersberg ; — 
and about eight we were on the banks of the Rhine ; — but 
how to get over puzzled us : — we went into a fishermans 
hut, — and had some milk and bread for breakfast ; — the 
woman told us, that her husband was gone a fishing, — and 
that it was impossible to cross the Rhine without first 
being strictly examined, by the police officers, — who came 
there regularly every morning at nine o'clock : — This was 
a bitter pill for us to swallow : — we were for beating a 
retreat into the woods that border the River: — when 
in came her son, a strong sturdy boy about twelve years of 
age he said, that if we would risk our- 
selves in his canoe, — he would take us across for two 
crowns: — the bargain was soon closed, and away we went 
down to the boat ; — It was merely three planks nailed 
together, we lied down to keep her steady, as well as not 
to be seen, and in a half an hour the Boy landed us most 
dexterously in Germany : — we were so tired from this long 
nights march, that we were glad to repose ourselves. — 

" The Rhine is a most noble river, but the water is 
always of a dirty yellow, — yet it is considered very whole- 
some, It abounds with fish, particularly large Pike, which 
are common at twenty five pounds weight. — We remained 
all day and night at the village of Saasbach ; and the 
morning after Breakfast, we hired a covered cart to take 

us on to Fribourg, where we arrived at Noon. We put 

up at the Hotel de l'Europe; — where we found a most 

excellent table d'hote ; while we were at dinner, one of 

the party was reading the newspaper pro-bono ; — he 
stumbled on some Verdun news, that announced our 
desertion, offering at the same time a handsome reward 

for our apprehension : luckily not a remark — was made, 

so that squall passed off quietly : We hired a post 


chaise to take us on to Neustadt ; — as we were going out 
at the gates, we were stopped by the guards who demanded 
our names, and where we were going ; we soon supplied 
them with French ones, and that we were merchants — 
going to Ulm on business ; — we arrived at Neustadt about 
Six in the evening, — and remained there until nine the 
next morning. — 

" This part of the country is on the borders both of 
Switzerland and the Tyrol ; — mountainous and romantic ; 
— The females were dressed in high caps, short petticoats, 
and green stockings ; — the Men had tight Jackets, — broad 
brimmed hats, — large breeches, and stockings of all 
colours ; — their manners rude beyond measure ; — complete 
boors, — and if they love anything in the world, it is their 
pipe and a glass of snaps ; — yet this was the land of music, 
and the birth place of such men as Gessner, whose writings 
gave those heavy clowns a far different character. — 

" The rivulets are full of trout, and of the finest flavour, 
but they have no method of taking them beyond the net ; — 
This is the Country for a fly-fisher ! — The game is equally 
abundant, and no restrictions whatever against shooting ; — 
every article of life is extremely cheap ; and good Hock 
in perfection for little or nothing : — Their commerce is 
generally confined to their saw-mills. — 

" The next morning we got into a post chaise, and 
arrived at Daunauishingen about three in the afternoon ; 
this is a very remarkable Town on the borders of the 
Swartzen Weld : — or Black forest ; — It is a principality, 
and owes the greatest part of its celebrity, to the source of 
the Noble Danube, from whence it takes its name : — The 
Palace is about the size of an English parsonage house, 
and not a better appearance : — The source of the Danube 
flows out of a marble fountain, — and conveyed through 
the gardens ; — afterwards, it is Joined by several small 
streams from the hills, so, that by the time it reaches 
a little below Vienna, — there is sufficient width and depth 
of water, to exercise a fleet of men of war on it. — 


" We left Daunauishingen the same evening and travelled 
all night, and arrived at Maskirk Just before daylight: — 
It being Sunday and a day of rest ; — we did not quit it 
again until the evening. — — It was something extra- 
odinary that on the whole of this day, we were in a most 
melancholy kind of humour : both of us, seemed appre- 
hensive of some sinister foreboding. — nor could we account 
for it in the least ; — especially as we knew that in two 
days more we should be in Austria, and perfectly safe 
from the long arms of the french police ; — we drowned 

our thoughts in some good punch got into the post 

chaise and set out for Ulm — which proved the place of all 
our future troubles and misery 

" Instead of riding into the Town — we got out and 
walked, to avoid suspicion ; — yet for all that, we were 
stopped by the police at the gates — who demanded our 
names, and where we were going : — we satisfied them with 
our usual precaution in such cases : — and proceeded to the 
Inn where the Chaise had stopped — 

" We had soon seated ourselves to a dejuner a la four- 
chette : — and were making all possible enquiries of the 
Landlord about proceeding in the Packet to Vienna, which 
was to go that morning at ten o'clock : — the Captain came 
in and we arranged with him for the passage in the cabin : 
— the Landlord was busily employed in making us up a 
good basket of provisions, — when as fate would have it, in 
came the Commissaire de Police, and began his breakfast 
at the same table with us: — seeing that we were strangers, 
— he enquired if we were going to Vienna by the packet ; 
on our saying that we were, — he very politely offered to 
sign our passports, and prevent us the trouble of going to 
the office ; — he was quick-sighted enough to perceived that 
we had none, and that we were suspicious characters : — he 

asked who we were, we answered Frenchmen, — he 

said — show me your passports instantly, or a reference 
to any respectable house in Ulm: — or I will arrest you 
immediately : rinding ourselves in the Jaws of this 


lion, — and at a public table, we hardly knew what to 

answer ; we took him aside and told him that we were 

English merchants, that had unfortunately been wrecked 
on the coast of Prussia, and that we were travelling to 
Vienna, in order to meet a ship of ours at that time in the 

Mediterranean. He said — ' Are you aware that you 

are passing through the Kingdom of Bavaria, faithful as 
an ally to France ; — consequently an Enemy to England. 

1 must do my duty by arresting you, and keeping you 

in custody, until I hear from our government at Munich. — 
two police-men stepped forward, and we were arrested 
accordingly ; — we were ordered into separate appartments, 
and all our papers and money to be taken from us, which 

was done. A police-man remained as a sentinel on each 

of us — here we were left to our miserable reflections, — and 
to ruminate on our wild goose chace : — The windows were 
three stories high, — consequently too high for a leap. — 
The centinel was rigid in his duty, and above corrup- 
tion : — we had but one alternative according to the old 
motto — ' Grin and bear it ; — In the course of the day, the 
Commissary of Police came, — and said, — that if we would 
promise, — not to bribe the centinals, or offer any violence, 

he would allow us to be together, If not ; that we 

must be moved to prison that night : — we promised every- 
thing, — and we were permitted to have the handsomest 

rooms at the hotel ; we remained here ten days 

feasting at the expence of the Bavarian government, on 
every luxury, the country or the season could afford : — At 
last, they received notice from Strasbourg of our deser- 
tion : — and so exact were our descriptions, sent, that, the 
Commissary came to see us and called us by our names ; — 
He said — he was really sorry ; that his duty laid him 
under the imperious necessity of arresting us : — and that 
if he could even ; now ! — with safety to himself ; he would 

set us at Liberty ; but, he had received orders to 

send us back to France under an escort, — and that we 
might take our farewell breakfast he also said, that 


our guards on the road, would defray all our expenses, and 

desired us not to stint ourselves in any-thing; After 

breakfast, we were preparing for our long march back ; 
when to our astonishment, — we saw a handsome Barouche 
and four horses provided for us ; — we thanked the Com- 
missary for his general good kindness towards us. — 

" We entered the carriage first, and took possession of the 
back seats — our guards sat in front with their rifles placed 
in each corner ; — we were continually with our wits at 
work how to make our escape from these fellows, — but 
it was next to an impossibility — If ever we had occasion 
to stop on the road, — the guards would get out first and 
Stand off about twenty yards from the carriage with their 
Tyrolean rifles ready cocked ; — and always made us get in 

" We were only three days getting to Strasbourg; — but 
prior to our entering the Town, I perceived the guards 

reckoning up the whole of our expenses : 1 naturally 

asked the question ; — If they thought to be repaid by the 
French, the expences they had been at on our account ; — 
they said, — that they were certain of it, — and if they had 
the least doubt to the contrary, — they would set us at 
liberty : — I proposed for one of them to go and ascertain 
exactly how it would be, — and decide our fate afterwards : 
— but they had so much confidence in the french govern- 
ment, and authorities, that it was determined for us to go 
on. — When we arrived at the Commandant of the Gen- 
darmiiie : — we were in an instant taken possession of, and 

led away to the military prison. Before we left Ulm, 

all our money had been restored to us : — but the moment 
we entered the Jail we were again stripped of it, and 
thrust into a dirty cell on some filthy straw, as usual 

filled with fleas and lice ; we soon felt the difference 

of treatment between the Bavarians and our old friends 

the French. The next day, we were taken before the 

Governor ; — but, before we left the prison we were hand- 
cuffed, and led through the streets like felons to the 


Bashaws residence. On our appearance he began 

scowling on us : — in a most contemptous manner ; — which 
we returned with equal looks of defiance ; — He began 
questioning us in a most ungentlemanly-style ; — such as 

Comment Jean — f — s des Anglais, and other terms 

like it, that we gave him no answer whatever : — this so 
enraged him, — that he ordered all our money to be dis- 
tributed among the Gendarms that had been searching for 
us, — and to be marched off to Verdun the next morning in 

Irons, and on bread and water : This to our sorrow 

was obeyed to the letter. — 

" If the reader will only look at a French chart, he will 
see that Ulm by the road we took, was upwards of three 
hundred miles, and nearly two hundred, we walked in six 
nights. — The weather was now set in with sleet and snow ; 

and bitter cold In the morning about seven o'clock, 

the Gendarmes came for us ; we were strongly Ironed 
together and set out on our march with aching hearts and 
empty stomachs : — In the afternoon we arrived at Blamont 

with our shoes worn off our feet ; The prison we were 

put into was formerly a stable, but secured with a strong 
door and iron bars at a small window : — the straw was 
wet from the snow beating in on it through the window : — 
— the Jailor was a cobler who lived the other side of the 
street, — he brought us our brown loaf, and Jug of water — 
while he was with us, we bargained with him for a couple 
of pair of strong second hand shoes ; — we gave him each 
a good linen shirt and glad we were of such a chance. — 
The next day, when the Gendarmes came for us we were 
so numbed with the cold, and lying in our wet clothes, 
that it was with great difficulty we got underweigh : — our 
hats from the wet and making night caps of them, were 
all manner of shapes made us cut a most ridiculous 

figure; This day our Irons were screwed on tighter 

than usual, which made our hands to swell and look 

black : we had nothing to eat until we got to Phals- 

bourg, where we received our allowance of Bread — 


" There is a custom in France, prevailing at all the 
Theatres — should any body turn their back to the stage 
during the performance, it is looked upon as a very great 
piece of rudeness :— and notice taken of it by the Police. — 
a circumstance occurred at Verdun, — and perfectly con- 
nected w ith this part of my narrative, that I must relate it. — 

" Mr. Simpson — surgeon of His majesty's ship Ranger, 

a Scotsman by birth, and a prisoner at Verdun ; he had 

not been long at the depot, consequently knew nothing of 
those rules or regulations ; — he dined out one day with a 
friendly party, and being rather fresh with champagne 
went to the Theatre, and took a seat in the dress boxes: — 
lie thought, that he might hiss or applaud as he did 
at Plymouth, or Portsmouth ; — Once he turned his back 
on the scene ; — which was looked over after a great deal 
of noise and confusion, made by the audience in the Pit, — 
But when the bust of the Emperor was brought forward ; 
accompanied by the music playing his magnificent grand 
march ; — he hissed, and groaned it, with all his heart and 

soul ; he was seized by the Gendarms, and hurried off 

to the Tour d'Angouleme. The next night, he was 

sent off secretly to another place in the Town — and as 
soon as a letter could come from the Minister of war ; — 
he was carried off nobody knew where ; — some thought he 
had forfeited his life. — A twelvemonth had elapsed and 
he seemed lost to the world. — 

" Porteus and I were feasting on our brown bread, and 
Jug of cold comfort, when the Jailor came, and said, — ' If 
you will promise never to mention, what I am going to 
shew you : — come with me and I will introduce you 

to a countryman of yours. We did promise ; — and 

after taking us through several appartments, — we entered 

a Cell, and saw a red haired man, the shadow of the 

once tine fellow Doctor Simpson — On seeing us, he shed 
tears of Joy — he had been kept until within the last month, 
in Irons, and solitary confinement: — but what astonished 
us beyond every-thing, he seemed to have entirely forgotten 


his native language ! — It was a mixture of French, German, 
and English, — He kept on saying — ' Oh mien liebre, was 

you here, I was very content, this was said with a 

broad scotch accent — the Jailor allowed us to remain with 

him one hour : we parted — calling down vengeance 

from above on the great Napoleon, for such a petty and 
unworthy piece of Tyranny — It may be supposed that he 
was sent there by the minister of wars order only ? — On 

the contrary, it was De par l'Empereur ! Whether 

Simpson lived to get home or not, I cannot tell, — -but 
I was informed that he died there shortly after we left 

him : we retired to our straw, and a bitter cold night 

to the bargain : The next morning we set out and 

arrived at Luneville, about three in the afternoon : — where 
we could have raised some money on a bill ; — but we were 
informed, that it would be taken from us — so we were 
obliged to stick to our Brown Tommy. — 

" On our going out of Luneville the next morning, — 
we were degraded in such a manner, that our spirits sunk 
within us, and many a bitter tear started in our eyes : — 
We had the honor to lead the Van of twenty four Gally- 
slaves ; — in their proper dress, all the way to Nancy : — we 
were chained two and two, — and if one had occasion to 
stop on the road, — all the rest were obliged to stop also 
and wait on the gentleman and his handcuffed companion 
waiting as Valet de chambre — A long chain passed between 
the whole, and kept us in a close line ; — each of those 

slaves had a brown loaf under his arm ; In this manner, 

we walked all the way to Nancy, — raining hard and mud 
to the knees. — On our arrival at that beautiful Town 
Nancy, we were obliged to parade through the principal 
streets, while the slaves begged from door to door, — many 
a time the hand of charity was extended to us, but although 
nearly famishing with hunger, we only bowed our heads 

in silence, as a refusal to the intended kindness. This 

was the first time in all my misfortunes, that I really 
found my pride humbled to the dust ; — and it was with 


real Joy, that we entered our prison, where we soon set too 
on our brown loaf, — with an appetite to be envied by 

a City Alderman : We found to our great relief, that 

these gentry were going another road ; — and to our comfort 
we departed by ourselves. 

" The most of those Galley-slaves, — or forcats as they 
are generally called, are deserters ; or refractory Con- 
scripts — and really ; one cannot but pity them. — The 
system of recruiting the french Army by conscription, 
is still better than the method we had, to man our Navy. — 
The one was by ballot, — The other was by force ; — The 
Conscription was the main spring towards the glory of the 
French arms, and necessary to the greatest and most 
ambitious man that ever existed ; — yet, trifles pleased 
him, and like a child trifles displeased him ; his mind was 
entirely on military power : — as for his Navy ! It was 
merely a matter of form — had he devoted his talents 
to Maratime, as well as to Military tactics, I do not hesitate 
to say, that England would have trembled for her hard 
earned laurels. Frenchmen are much easier com- 
manded than any other Nation ; — obedient in the extreme 
to their superiors : — and although blended with a kind of 
good humoured freedom, — yet, there is a certain respect, 
which is sufficient to bind man to man, — and keep at the 
same time the distance, due to rank and talent ; like our- 
selves they love and adore their country ; — like ourselves 
they are brave, and freely acknowledge ; — that, if the two 
Nations were allied, they would give law to the whole 

" Whenever a Conscription was demanded ; the Mayor 
of the Town or Village, was obliged to furnish the Prefect 
of the department with the names of those who are of an 
age to serve ; — orders are then sent to take by fair ballot, 
the number required ; — those who escaped, were only 
wanted for the Leve£ en masse, or the national guard : — 

The moment fate decided a young man for the service, 

he threw up his hat, and cried out Vive l'Empereur: — 


whatever his connections might be ; he marched off as a 
common recruit, — and rose according to his merits, bravery 
and immulation gained them the legion of honneur, and 
rapid promotion ; — It was open alike to the peasant 
and the peer ; — and he that possessed a head to plan, and 
a heart to execute, was sure to rise in power and honor ; 
six weeks was quite sufficient to send a recruit to the 
field ; — their numbers made up the deficiency of strength, 
that soup meagre would not allow against beef and 
pudding. — But their onset combined with a determination 
to conquer ; made them a match, and equal to any troops 
in the world. — 

" Depression in any case will weaken the courage of 
mankind in general ; and no Nation, feels it more than 
the French : — They are either all courage ; or all fear ; — 
one reverse is sufficient to weaken the courage of the 
whole Army, — again, they are easily roused by the slightest 
advantage gained over the enemy ; — whenever they are 
beaten, they invariably say, that it was through treachery : 

Desertion among the Army, was punished either with 

death or the galleys : — if three or more deserted and were 

caught : the oldest, was by law, considered as chef du 

Complot, — and accordingly shot : — nor was the Code mili- 
taire satisfied with punishing the principles: — It fell on their 
poor relations, already sufficiently heart broken and des- 
graced ; — who were obliged to pay government the sum 
of fifteen hundred francs ; — and so rigidly was this law 
executed, that, they must sell all their goods and chattels 

to raise this sum. The French never inflict corporal 

punishment on their soldiers ; — they think that it disgraces 
the man for ever, and levels him with the brute. — 

" Nancy without exception is the most regular, and 
beautiful built Town in France : — It contains about thirty 
thousand inhabitants, who are a very industrious race 
of people ; — The fine River Mozelle runs through the 
Town ; — the country around mountainous and woody : — 
The markets well supplied, and extremely cheap: — In 


fact, it is one of the most desirable residences in France ; — 
The sex at Nancy are generally thought, the handsomest, — 
most agreeable, and witty in the Kingdom. — In my 
opinion, I think they also surpass the Pariseinnes in dress 
and elegance : — but one thing I remarked among the lower 
classes, — was, the goitre which was very common. — 

" YVe remained here two days and then marched off to 
St. Mihiel, a small Town on the meuse : — Here the 
County assizes are held for the department of the Meuze : 
— It was late in the evening before we arrived, and so 
tired, that we were glad to go to our straw : — We remained 
here two days, — on account of a young girl who had been 
condemned to death, and was to be beheaded that day ; — 
she was as beautiful, and as innocent as an angel ; — this 

was proved afterwards ; — but too late. She was a 

little more than seventeen years of age ; — tall and most 
elegantly shaped, — light brown hair and dark eyes ; — her 
face seemed as if it had been cast in a Grecian mould, and 

most beautifully fair. She was sitting on her bedside 

with such a placid look, that would have defied any-one to 
find, or think her guilty: — About a quarter of an hour 
after we saw her ; — the Gendarmes came to conduct her 
to the scaffold, where the guillotine was erected in the 
market place : — before she left the Prison, the Sirjeant of 
the Gendarmes cut off her beautiful long hair, — I would 

have willingly sacrificed a limb to have saved her life, 

never shall I forget her farwell to every body : — especially, 
when she said with a religious firmness, ' I forgive 
my uncle ; — he has taken my life, and knows that I am 
innocent ; — She was led forth to execution, and in an 
instant, the fatal axe cut off the head of one of the most 
lovely flowers that ever bloomed : — 

" She was left an orphan under the protection of her 
Uncle, who was a bachelor of good reputation and fortune, 
and about forty years of age : — his niece had formed an 
attachment to a young officer in the Army, who at that 
time was absent with his regiment, — but the Uncle, 


instead of promoting their mutual happiness ; — became 
Jealous, and in love with her himself ; — after undergoing 
many persecutions, which from delicacy, she never once 
hinted to any of her young friends. — He had made several 
attempts on her person ; — but finding that he would never 
be able to accomplish his diabolical purpose, he was deter- 
mined on her ruin in another way, especially since her 
lover was returning home on leave for a short time : — 
after the last assault on her person, — he, on the next day 
begged pardon, saying, that he was mad drunk and did not 
know what he was about ; — but, this last brutal rudeness 
was too bad to be overlooked by his niece ; — who 
threatened both to expose and to leave him. — Knowing 
how very fair his reputation stood with his neighbours, 
and the Town in general ; — he thought, that if the affair 
was made public, he would lose his honorable name, and 
probably, cut by all virtuous society : — therefore, to 
prevent exposure, he determined in the ruin and death 
of his niece. — He left the Town one night disguised as 
a clown, and went as far as Nancy, — at an Apothecary's 
shop he purchased some Arsnic and returned home the 
next evening, — appearing as if he had only been — to his 
farm in the country : — nothing could exceed his kindness 
towards his niece at this moment : — he seemed quite 
repentant of his former conduct, — his unhappy victim 
doubted so sudden a change, yet, her goodness forgave all, 
and every thing seemed to promise future tranquility : — 
he even consented to her union with her lover, all this, — 
was to lull her into security. — 

" However, something occurred — which ended in a 
dispute ; — so far, that she said — ' She would bear with it 
no longer ; — and that she would make him repent of it ! — 
these last words were heard distinctly by two servants ; — 

He now laid his plans for her destruction he found 

means to open her private cabinet of drawers, and placed 
among her trinkets a part of the Arsnic. — — The 
next day he took a strong dose of Tarter emetic ; 


complained of being very unwell, and of the coffee his 

niece had given him for breakfast : Medical assistance 

was sent for, — and his suspicions were confirmed by the 
faculty, that he had taken poison ! — counter poisons were 
immediately given, yet he appeared dying, in great agony, 
— the quantity of Tartar Emetic had nearly done his 
business ; — and pity but what it had. — the doctors all 
concluded that he had been poisoned ; — his niece gave 

him his coffee, she made it herself : a magistrate was 

sent for, and a general enquiry was made : — then a search : 
— The fatal paper of Arsnic was found, and the poor 
innocent girl hurried off as a murderess to the Prison. — 
The Doctors to establish their credit, swore it was their 
counter-poisons, that saved his life : — 

"At her trial, the two servants repeated what she said 
the day before ; — ' that, she would make him repent of it : 

— together with the poison found in her drawers, she 

was condemned, and suffered. — Conscience, which always 
haunts the wicked, would not allow this wretch to possess 
a moment of rest : — he wandered about, — seeking in 
dissipation, to drown his haunted soul in wine : — He one 
day, in a fit of despair and drunkenness, confessed his 
guilt to an officer of Justice : — he was arrested and sent to 
Prison, — the Apothecary from whom he purchaced the 
Arsnic swore to his person ; — — Another from whom 
he procured the Tartar emetic ; — The person from whom 
he procured the false keys; — he was tried for perjury, and 
the murder of his niece : — He was ordered by the supreme 
Tribunal at Paris, to suffer death, — First ; his right hand 
was chopped of; — then his head — 

" After this Tragical occurrence, we set out towards 
Verdun seven leagues distant : — It rained hard all day, — or 
rather a sleet, that cut our faces and ears very much : — we 
arrived at Verdun about four in the afternoon, and led 
through bye-ways to the Citadel, to avoid meeting any of 
our Countrymen : — we were put into the Tower of Angou- 
leme, — and only two persons were allowed to visit us, — 


who privately brought us in some money : — our provisions 
were supplied by the Jailor, who made us pay most 

enormously dear for them : we were kept in separate 

cells, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, without 
any fire : — the snow, and sleet used to beat in on our 
beds ; nor were we allowed any spirits or wine 

" Here we remained a month, in bitter cold weather : — 
we underwent a strict examination relative to our route ; — 
we answered what we pleased : not choosing to com- 
promise ourselves, or the people who had been kind to us 

on the road ; At last the day arrived, when we were 

to leave Verdun for the Souterrains of Bitche. — The snow 
was deep on the ground, and a piercing North east wind 
right in our faces, — we were put into an open cart hand- 
cuffed, and on some straw : — Five Gendarmes were sent 
to escort two such desperate fellows as we were ; — In the 
evening, we arrived at Marslatours Seven leagues from 
Verdun ; — when we alighted from the cart, — the guards 
conducted us towards the Prison, which to oar great 
astonishment, was under the Parish Church in one of the 
vaults. We hesitated at the entrance, — perhaps super- 
stition lent her aid to prevent us ? It was soon decided 

by the Jailor thrusting us forward, and left us to grope our 
way towards a corner, where we might find our bed of 
straw ; — instead of which, we stumbled on a heap of 
human bones ! — We thought that it smelled deadly, but 
now it really felt so : — sailors, of all persons in the world 
are the most superstitious : — and if we had a horrible 
feeling on us at this moment, let any of our readers think 
themselves in our situation — then Judge. 

" It was fortunate for me, that I had a doctor for my 
companion, — -or I should not have slept a wink for the 
night ;— it seemed to him, a mine of wealth : — for during 
two long hours, I was obliged to listen to all the theory 
and practice of anatomy : — so that, by the morning, I was 
acquainted and quite familiar with the Craniums and 
paraphernelia of our ghostly friends; — and only left the 


impression, that my own ribs and trucks would soon be 
like them : — 

" In the morning we again set out on our Journey; — it 
was a clear sharp frosty morning, the Two Gendarmes 
were so good as to allow us to march without our Irons ; — 
one of them was a kind and pleasant fellow, — full of good 
humour and anecdote, — he told us a very pleasing one. — 

" Buonaparte passing through Marslatours, — to Join the 
grand army for the invasion of Prussia ; — stopt at the 
grand auberge of the village to breakfast; — quite unex- 
pectedly; In every petty village, there is a Mayor, — 

and a Sub, — who performs his duty during his absence ; — 
At this critical moment ; — nobody could find either of 
them to come and compliment the Emperor on his 
arrival ; — -at last, the Mayor was found like Cincinatus at 
the plough-tail : — — he ran home put on his best coat, 
' blue celeste, — and his sash — (tri-coloured) the badge of 
his dignity, then waited on the mighty man of war; — He 
stood at the entrance of the room, — and made several 
efforts to speak, — but impossible ; — — he only kept bowing 
and scraping ; — at last, he was so fascinated by Buona- 
partes keen and scrutinizing eye ; — that he appeared to 
have the same effect on him ; that a Rattlesnake has on a 
poor little squirrel — 

" An old shoe-maker nearly seventy years of age, and 
a true fac-simile of Salamanca's Knight, stood close behind 
the poor trembling Mayor ; — saying every now and then — 
1 Fa rle done bete que tu es, — at last his patience was 
entirely worn out ; — he caught hold of the Mayor, shoved 
him out, saying, that he would speak to the Emperor pour 
rhonneur du Village 

" He first took off his greasy cotton night cap with his 
left hand :— — with his right ; in a style quite Theatrical, 
took lu's horn spectacles from his nose — bending himself 
with Marslatourian elegance, — he began thus : — 

" Dit done mon Empereur : — vous etes en route, pour 
battre ces B s des Prussiens — nous esperons, de vous 


voir, retourn6r en France couvert da gloire ; — tous ce que 
I'ai a nous dire mon Empereur; est — Que Cesar; et 
Alexandre ; n'etoient que des I — n — F — s en comparaison 
de vous. — 

" Buonaparte was almost convulsed with laughter; — he 
asked the old man if he had any sons ; — he answered ; — 
' Two in your Guards my Emperor — Their names were 
taken down, and the old man saw them officers, — and 
himself a comfortable pension. — 

" About three in the Afternoon, we arrived at Metz ; — 
we were not put into the common receptacle for felons, — 

but put into a room with three beds in it : There was 

an Inmate already there ; a french conscript ; — 

" We saw by his manners, that he was above the com- 
mon class of individuals, — so we cordially invited him to 
partake of our dinner, — which he accepted with great 
reluctance : — — — we were astonished at his elegant 
address, and figure ; his face was not of the hand- 
somest, — for the small pox had made dreadful ravages — 
— In the course of the evening we found him a most 
interesting companion ; — and before we went to bed, he 

told us that — he was the Count de la Rochaimont He 

had emigrated with what remained of his family during 

the Revolution, and quite a child ; When Buonaparte 

granted them an Amnesty, — he returned to France, hoping 

to get some of his patrimonial property. Buonaparte 

gave him the rank of chef d'escadron : — and ordered him 
to Join his regiment without delay ; — this was really kind 
and generous to an emigrant ; on his part. — But there 
happened to be an old lady of great fortune : — eighty 
years of age, — that wished to leave it to the Rochaimont 
family — proposed to marry him, which he most gratefully 
accepted. — 

" Buonaparte having himself an eye on the old lady's 
property, was enraged beyond all bounds at this piece of 

information : he ordered poor Rochaimont off to Join 

his regiment ; but he remained behind in Paris and 


was married, — for disobedience of orders, he was ordered 
off as a common soldier to Join the corps of artillery 
at Metz, and escorted there as a prisoner : — I have never 
seen him since, but I believe that he holds a very high 
rank in the Royal guards — at this moment. — 

" The next day we set out for Bitche, — we were three 
days on our road, — in irons as usual, — nothing worth 
remarking occurred until we saw that celebrated fortress 
on the top of a high mountain ; — It was the place of resi- 
dence, — perhaps for the war, of many a bright and enter- 
prizing fellow : — who only kept his hopes alive, anticipating 
the death of Buonaparte : — It was here the British prisoner 
of War, dragged on an existence of pining and wretched 
misery ; — Frenchmen may say what they please about 
prison ships : — but they were Palaces in comparison with 
the Fort of Bitche : — 

" This is one of the strongest fortresses in Europe ; — It 
is the chef-d'oeuvre of the celebrated Vauban ; — built on a 
solid rock that overlooks the whole country around, and 
capable of standing a very long siege ; — numerous and 
immense souterrains are cut out of the solid rock, for 
troops and Cattle in cases of necessity ; — they were forty 
feet underground ; — and it was in those deep, — damp 
Caverns that live or Six hundred british prisoners were 
confined. — 

" It was nearly dark before we entered the town ; — and 
quite so by the time we got up to the Fort : — we went over 
several draw-bridges, — and shortly after entered the court 
yard ; — here our Irons were taken off: — on our approach- 
ing the souterrains, we heard a confused noise under- 
ground ; — when the door was opened, we heard an uproar 
below among our unhappy countrymen ; — we descended 
about fifty steps, and found ourselves, in a place resembling 
the infernal regions : — lights were shewn in all directions: 
— six blazing wood fires : — all hands came forward to shake 
hands and welcome us ; — and claim us to drown melancholy 
at a punch party : — we looked around us with astonish- 


ment ; — some were singing, — some were gambling, — others 
fighting ; — such a scene of careless misery, I never beheld 
before; — we Joined in with some of our own class, and 
after a good supper, we retired to our straw mattress : — 

" There were about five hundred prisoners at Bitche, 
divided into two Caverns or Souterrains, — the largest was 
for the common sailors : — the other for officers ; — and 
those considered as such : 

" Monsieur Vauban, seems to have combined his talents 
and skill to render the Fort of Bitche impregnable ; nature 
assisted him in every-thing he wished for ; — It afforded 
him an excellent spring of water, and a solid rock for his 
defence : from its well known security ; It was con- 
verted into a state prison, — or rather a supernumary 
Bastile ; — here many a poor wretch lingered out their 
miserable remains of existence; — victims to that Infamous 
strumpet, Pompadour and others like her : — 

" It was here in those horrid caverns, forty feet under- 
ground, that the British prisoner of war was shut up for 
years : — and humble submission to the Governor alone ; 
saved him from the addition of an Iron collar round his 
neck, with a chain thirty pounds weight attached to it : — 
— The souterrains were very large ; — one hundred and fifty 
feet — by fifty — fitted up with guard beds on each side, 
made of strong oak ; — a straw matrass and a blanket was 

the bed allowed for two officers ; the place was kept as 

clean as the situation would admit of : — but it was so 
infested with rats ; — that, they used to destroy all our 

provisions and clothes ; — we were in darkness all day ; 

from the small windows — rays of light, — would afford us 
sufficient at times, to read by — 

" In the forenoon, we were permitted to enjoy two 
hours — in the Court yard — or ; upon deck — as we used 
to call it ; — The same again in the afternoon, during which 
time , the servants were employed in cleaning out the 
souterrains, and procuring fresh water. — 

" It was in these infernal regions, many a bright youth 


became the victim to all kinds of vices: — Drinking, — 
Gambling, and smoaking, were a constant repetition, and 
generally ended in boxing matches : — the place was so 
damp, that, at times, our blankets felt as if they had been 

out all night in the dew. consequently, it ended in 

giving the most hardy constitutions Rheumatisms for life; 
— and crippled the weaker. 

"The prisoners — were divided into messes, and most 
generally classed according to their rank, situation, and 
temper : — Those who were studious, naturally avoided the 

noise)' Clubs ; Brandy and Gin was so cheap, that 

any-one who liked, might get drunk for three-pence : — Yet, 
among all those horrors ; — deaths were not so frequent as 

in other depots; but severities toward the prisoners, 

were carried to a greater length, and often ended in 
death. — The Governor : — General Maisonneuve — one of 
the most Ignorant beings that ever existed ; — bore the 
spite of a devil towards all English, and sought every 
occasion to annoy them. 

" He was at the begining of the Revolution ; — Male nurse 
at the hospital at Metz ; — during the time the guillotine 
made such dreadful havoc, he led on the mob, and gloried 
in exhibiting his sword drenched in the blood of his 

Countrymen : having been a drummer in India where 

he lost his arm ; — gave him some Idea of military tactics ; — 
but his talents, — —nor his courage, ever cut him out 
to figure on the held of Battle ; — And Boney knew his 
Generals so well, that this old sinner, was placed as 
Governor of Bitche, — free from all danger, — and at full 
liberty, to flourish his maiden sword over a few miserable 
prisoners of war. — He was extremely clever at espionage ; 
but never could he keep it a secret : — Desertions from this 
Depot were more frequent than any other, and attended 
with more success, from its proximity to the Rhine : — yet, 
on the other hand, — the height of the ramparts, caused 
several deaths, and many a broken limb. — 

" It was found out by the prisoners, that the souterrains 


communicated with several Sally ports under the ram- 
parts : — Two clever fellows, — Cox, and Marshall, belonging 
to Capt. J. Brenton's Ship the Minerve, undertook to open 
the doors and set the prisoners at liberty, — The one was a 
Carpenter, the other a Smith, — They succeeded so well, 
that they opened all the doors in one day ! ! — 

" Parties were made — ; — some were making up small 
bundles holding a change of linen, or a spare pair of 

shoes ; others were preparing three or four days 

provisions ; The plan, was to separate, and each party 

to chose their own road according to their own Judgment : 
— Nine o'clock was the hour appointed for leaving the 
Souterrain, — Cox and Marshall were to lead the way; — 
every thing seemed favourable for the enterprize ; — a dark 
misty night, — and the Fort wrapt in perfect silence : — 
The hour was come ; — and shaking hands with each other 
like parting friends going on a dangerous expedition, — 
The two men led the way; — the prisoners following in 
silence two and two — They were within a few yards of the 
sally-port ; — when Cox thought he heard some one breathe 

Just before him ; he said to Marshall ; — ' did you hear 

that ! ! ' no — said the other,' damme get on, what are 

you afraid of: — almost directly after, some one touched 
Cox on the shoulder : — he asked Marshall if it was him : — 
At that moment, he fell dead, a sword had gone through 

his heart : Marshall gave the alarm : lights where 

then shewn by a party of soldiers who were lying in wait 
in the passage ; — Marshall had proceeded too far to retreat 
back again ; — he called aloud to the prisoners that they 

were betrayed ; While they were making a rush, back 

into their souterrain ; — this poor but brave fellow seeing no 
chance of saving his life, prepared to defend it as long 
as he could : — with his oaken cudgel, he knocked down the 
two foremost : — fought his way to the sally port, where he 
fell dead covered with bayonnet wounds ; — The soldiers 
then came into the Souterrain, and began beating the 
prisoners with the flats of their sabres : — many of them 


were desperately wounded. There was a Jersey man 

among the prisoners, who had fled from Justice for 
murder — and got over to France ; — he was called Big 
Williams — but his proper name was Bouchel. — This was 
the villain that gave information to the Governor of all the 
prisoners movements; — In fact he was paid as a spy. 

" The next morning, — most of the prisoners were taken 
away, and put into different cachots, — formerly the state 
prisons : — The bodies of Cox and Marshall, were brought 
into the court yard, — dreadfully mutilated ; — without any 
covering whatever : and placed as a spectacle, and as an 

example to the rest : The old General knew of the 

prisoners going to desert ; — consequently, had it in his 
power to prevent it, in a manner, worthy of the name and 

character of a soldier, — rather than like a Murderer : 

But he, assembled his veteran soldiers, flourished his 
maiden sword, and led them to the scene of action, — 
determined to shed some blood, no matter how ; — 
Assassination had once been quite familiar to him : — 
therefore — he preferred embracing his hands in the carnage 
and blood of a few defenceless prisoners of war ; than 
seek the genuine laurels, — worthy of a General officer on 
the honorable field of battle : — He like a murdering savage, 
boasted that it was himself who ran Cox through the body 
with his sword : — that he knew where to ' toucher au 
cceur. — but, he never said a single word about the crack 
on the head he received from Marshall : — he might for the 
remainder of his life, sing the praises of its thickness : — he 
had the decency to wear a night cap, and complain of 
a head-ache: — His character — was — low, — Ignorant, — 
vain, — cruel, — and avaricious ; — flattery was the only key 
to his favour : — such was the brutal monster who com- 
manded the British prisoners of war at the Fort of Bitche ; 
and many a bitter tear has been shed by them, occasioned 
by his cruelties : — 

" It was in this den of misery I remained nearly two 
years, experiencing like the rest, all the roughs and 


smooths as they came on : The Minister of war, at 

last sent an order that some of the quiet characters might 
be permitted to go to the depot of Sarre- Libre: — I was 
among the number allowed to go :— and I left Bitche 
considering it to be one of the happiest days of my 

" In the month of November, one very fine frosty 
morning, we were marched off, handcuffed to Sarre Libre. 
— When we arrived at the summit of the hill, where we 
could behold Bitche for the last time : — we stood still 
a moment, and gave it three hearty groans : — —we 
marched seven leagues to a Town called Sargumines, — 
and put into a most shocking prison. — 

" In a small court-yard thirty feet by fifteen : — were 
several low Cells, sufficient to strike horror in the breast 
of the most hardened Villain ; — the filth, — the vermin, — 
and a surly Jailor, made it up to the superessence of 
a young Bastile. — Thanks to providence we only remained 
here one night ; — The next day we arrived at Sarre-bruck, 
— a most beautiful little Town situated on a fine navigable 
River the Sarre ; — nine tenths of its population are protes- 
tants : — The Church is a most beautiful building ;• — its 
beauty saved it during the revolution — This town is a 
principality — The Duke of Nassau Sarre-bruck has a very 
handsome Palace, and holds a regular court : — his revenue 
is derived chiefly from the numerous coal mines, and Iron 

foundries : Barges of about fifty tons burthen, carry 

the coal as far as Holland, — and supply all the Towns and 
manufactories on the Banks of the Sarre, and the Rhine : 
— It is very much like our welsh coal ; very cheap, — two 
shillings per ton at the pits : — In this delightful Town the 
English are great favourites ;— and I know of no place 
in France equal to Sarre-bruck for a residence or a 
travelling visit. — 

" It was late in the evening of the next day before we 
arrived at Sarre-Libre ; — our chains and handcuffs were 
taken off, and marched two and two into the barracks, 


which were fitted up for the prisoners: — and of the com- 
parison between the two depots : — Bitche with all its 
horrors, was the most preferable. 

" Sarre-libre is in the department of the Mozelle : — a 
small but strongly fortified Town : — Its form is a regular 
square, — with pleasant walks round the ramparts ; — The 
inhabitants do not exceed Six thousand : and german was 
the prevailing language. — This was a depot for fifteen 
hundred prisoners, chiefly seamen : — The rooms in which 
we were confined, were about twenty feet square ; each 
containing seven beds, and fourteen people. — the pro- 
visions of the very worst quality, and short of weight ; — I 
began to regret leaving Bitche : — there we had the satisfac- 
tion of being locked up with about Seventy persons, most 
part officers and gentlemen : — but here, was I, and another 
poor Middy, shut up with twelve coal heavers, — mates of 
Colliers, — such as Falconer so ably describes in his Ship- 
wreck under the name of Rodmond ; — they were for ever 
running down the Navee as they called it ; — Their whole 
conversations were about — Keels of coals, — Canny lads ; — 

and Brigs with pink sterns ; but Captain Brenton used 

to stick in their gizzards, more than ever their confine- 
ment : — 

" A fellow among them was one day abusing the Navy 
with all his heart : — (they all seemed to have a deadly 
hatred towards it) — ' Daam that fellow Brenton ; — It's a 
his fote, that, we Meates and Captains of Mearchant ships 
are no better off in This Country: — When he was axed by 
the government, what pay we should have : — he said, rank 
'em with ma young gentlemen : — he ought to have said : — 
rank 'em wi ma Leeftenants! — We'll catch him down to the 
Notherd one day; — then let him look out: — young gentle- 
men indeed, — a set of dommed trash, that does not know 
B — from bulls foot. — 

" I should not have mentioned this : — a want of educa- 
tion might plead for their ignorance ; but, I will shew that 
they deserved the opprobrium of their fellow prisoners for 


a piece of unequalled villainy, that was ever recorded in 
History : — and if any of them be now living : — I hope, 
they have been sitting on the stool of repentance ; — but 
there is an indelible stain on their memories, — that their 
gray hairs wetted with their tears, will never be able to 
blot out. 

" The Commandant of this depot by the name of 
Le Sage, arrived with his family : — at his appointment : — 
but in such poor circumstances, that, the whole of their 
spare clothes, would not have made a mop for a Jolly- 
boat : — In the short space of twelve months : — he had 
a Carriage, and getting extremely rich ; — This was 
plundered from the poor prisoners scanty allowance : — He 
contracted with a Jew butcher, to supply the prisoners 
with meat : — but, instead of letting them have what the 
government allowed : — a half pound of good beef : — he 
used to buy up all the offals from the other Butchers, and 
serve this out ; short of weight to the bargain : — The 
clothing was also kept back : — so that our wretched but 
fine seamen, — remained in bed to keep out the cold. — or 
stalk about the ramparts like spectres wrapped up in a 
Blanket. — 

"The Commandant exercised his power over the post 
office, that all suspected letters, or petitions, were carried 
to him : — so that no complaint could reach Paris — from 
Sarre Libre : — and he always took care to punish severely 
the writer. — 

" Things were carried to such a pitch, that one of the 
inhabitants undertook to send a petition for them, through 
the means of his friend a traveller : — It arrived safe : — and 
instead of an answer ; — Three special Commissioners 
arrived from Paris, to enquire from the prisoners them- 
selves, the extent of their grievances : — they came Incog : 
— but when they presented themselves at the gate, — the 
Gendarmes refused them admittance ; they threw open 
their coats, and showed the superior rank of the legion of 
honneur, — and ordered the gates to be opened instantly 


— They went in, and first took a survey of the barracks ; 
then proceeded to the general inquiry. 

"The commandant immediately guessed who they were, 
and their errand ; — he hastened into the prison by another 
gate : — he went to the rooms where the mates of Collins 
were, and upon his promise, of allowing them to reside in 
Town on their parole : — he got them to sign a document 
hastily drawn up : — saying ; that the seamens complaint 
was without foundation : — that the Commandant was 
indulgent and kind to them : — that the provisions were 
excellent and good weight : — that they were a set of 
drunkards, — and sold their clothes for Brandy as soon 
as the) - were served out to them : — and finally, it was 
a piece of base ingratitude towards so good a Com- 
mandant : — Twelve of those wretched Coal heavers signed 
this precious document ! ! ! — for the ruin and destruction 
of their fellow prisoners, and Countrymen. — 

" Away went Le Sage in Triumph to the Commissioners : 
—on hearing what they were come for : — shewed them this 
rascally paper : — represented the signatures to be those of 

officers ! ! &c As soon as they read it, they ordered a 

copy to be taken, — and in a few hours they were on the 
road to Paris, — and no further trouble was taken about 
the depot : — Le Sage having now his sway ; — found out 
the writer of the petition, and the spokesman ; — he 
incarcerated them in a Cachot on bread and water for 
a month, then sent them off to Bitche. — 

" I am sorry that my memory will not help me with the 
names of those twelve scoundrels : — It is of no great 
consequence : — a list of them was stuck up at Lloyd's, so 
that no British merchant could ever think employing any 

of them. 1 beg, to let it be understood, that, there were 

some others of the same class, very worthy men. — that 
had no hand whatever, in this piece of Villainy : — but like 
every honest man, shuddered at the very sight of any — of 
them ever afterwards. — 

" There was a seaman in the d^pot, by the name of Morgan : 


a hot headed Welshman : — was in his room when the roll 
beat for Muster : — A Gendarme rather intoxicated, — began 

driving the men down : at the same time beating them 

with his sword ; — Morgan was moving down rather slowly, 
— received three or four hard blows : — his Welsh blood 
could stand it no longer : — he turned on the gendarme, 
wrenched his sword out of his hands, — threw it out of the 
window, then Kicked the fellow down stairs : — the guard 
was called, and poor Morgan was beat all the way to the 
Cachot most unmercifully : — shortly after, he was tried by 
a court Martial for resisting the guard, — and sentenced to 
be shot : which was put in execution the morning after 

the trial at four o'clock. so much for French 

Justice. — 

" In These barracks ; and opposite the room where I 
was confined, was a Subterraneous passage, that — com- 
municated by a Sally-port to the ditch outside the town, 

and close to the River : We had often observed the 

door of this passage, but nobody ever tried to open it. 

" — It was secured by a strong bolt and Lock : — for 
three days, we hanged a blanket over the door ; as if to 
dry, — to prevent suspicion : — I and another ; one forenoon, 
worked under this blanket, and broke the lock — forced the 

bolt, and entered the passage it was about fifty yards 

long — full of mud and foul air — we found out the sally 

port : soon forced it open then returned to change 

our dress and prepare for our escape. 

" While we were changing our clothes, the drum beat to 
arms ; — Soldiers and Gendarmes were running in all direc- 
tions, — In came the Commandant foaming with rage ; — 
made his way right up to the door; — giving orders to 
proceed in with torches, and drawn swords, and kill any- 
one found in the — passage : Luckily, we were out in 

time ; — but here ended our hopes of escape : — the numerous 
spies in this d6pot, rendered it almost next to an impossi- 
bility : — I remained in this execrable depot fourteen 
Months, — then orders came for our return to Verdun. — 


" I had been absent from This depot about three years, 
and of course found many alterations. — A great many new 
arrivals, — mostly military officers taken in Spain ; — The 
race course was given up : — The French black legs were 
returned to Paris ! ! — The Gambling houses entirely done 
away with ; — and finally General Wirion had blown his 
brains out ! ! — For nearly six years, he commanded the 
depot at Verdun, — and raised large sums of money, either 
by terrifying the rich until they made him or his wife a 
handsome present : — or by stopping a franc per month, 
out of the scanty allowance the poor officers and Masters 
of merchantmen were obliged to exist on: — this refined 
system of robbery was arrived at such an acme, that, his 
rapacity knew no bounds, — and at last ended in his ruin : 
— the cause was this. — 

" There was a gentleman by the name of Garland, (a 
detenue) who was rich : some say, ten thousand a year ; — 
being very nervous from ill health — was easily frightened 
by Wirion into any-thing: — especially as money did not 

seem to be of any value to him ; Wirion, had been on 

rather intimate terms with him, and had often borrowed 
small sums, — and received handsome presents both for 
himself and wife : — who by the bye, was no other than one 
of ladies of the Palais Royal : — he now made his grand 
attack: — Mr. Garland, was one morning arrested by the 
Gendarmes and brought up to the Citadel before General 
Wirion, accused of going to desert : — he produced a forged 
letter of information, that Justified his arrest; — and that, 
he must be confined in the round Tower until he gave 
some more substantial security, than his parole of honor : 
— which was, a bond of fifteen thousand pounds : — to be 
forfeited to General Wirion, — if ever he made the at- 
tempt : the bond was given with as much Joy, — as it 

was received by this Villain. — 

" Mr. Garland was liberated, and escorted to his lodgings 
by the Generals Aid de camp, — who took the liberty of 
remaining to dinner: he then presented Madame 


Wirions compliments, requesting the loan of the Carriage 
and horses for a day or two : — It was sent with pleasure, — 
Coachmen and footmen in livery, — It was kept a month ! ! 
— Her ladyship had made a dash with it to Paris ; — when 
it was sent back, the Carriage was spoiled, — and the horses 

Jaded by the time it was fit to go out again : — the 

faithful trusty aid du Camp — appeared ; — requesting the 
Carriage for Madame Wirion once more : but Mr. Gar- 
land refused to lend it : — The storm was gathering over 
this persecuted gentleman, — and in the course of week, it 
burst over his head in all its fury. — He had proceeded 
a short distance in the carriage for an airing : — when, 
some Gendarmes — rode up full gallop and arrested him : — 
he was now hand cuffed, and put into the Round Tower, 
with orders to allow nobody whatever — to approach him : 
— All the horrors of the fort of Bitche, were flitting before 
him — he had nothing in his mind but racks, — chains, — and 

dungeons : It was true that Mr. Garland had gone 

a quarter of a mile beyond the boundaries, — or limits 
allowed for the prisoners on parole, which is six miles 
round Verdun : — this was a plea for his being accused 
of going to desert. — It was useless for him to attempt 
vindicating himself ; — as the old story was brought 
forward, — certain information : — that he was going on to 
Bar le due in his own Carriage : — then to take post for the 
frontiers : — the very appearance of everything considered, 
carried a lie with it. — First of all : — he had — neither 
clothes, money, — or provisions, with him, when he was 
arrested. — and the most important of all ; — he had no 
passport. — 

" On the third morning after his arrest ; — he was desired 
to prepare himself, to set of next morning to the Fort 
of Bitche : — that he would be conducted in the usual 
manner of all deserters: — in irons from prison to prison. — 
at this information — he was so horror-struck that he 

became really ill : In the night — when all villainous 

transactions take place : — he was surprised by a visit from 


the General and his Aid-du Camp, wrapped up in their 
cloaks : — Wirrion, began to accuse his unhappy victim 
with duplicity, — but was deaf to all assurance of no inten- 
tion whatever, to desert, — he then began to pity him, on 
account of their former friendship, — when the fort of Bitche 
was mentioned; — Mr. Garland offered the General any 
terms he pleased to name, not to send him to that dread- 
ful place : — This was Just what Wirion wanted ! — he said, 
' I do not wish to hurt you : — but you know that you 
have forfeited your bond ; therefore, to cut short the 
business ; — give me three bills of exchange at different 
dates, of rive thousand pounds each : — and I will set you 
at liberty immediately ; to go to any Town beyond thirty 
leagues from Verdun, excepting Paris : — where you can 
remain safely, and quietly, on your parole, — infinitely 
better than at Verdun. — 

" The bills were given on Messrs Lafitte and Perrigaux 
at Paris, — the bond was destroyed : — and Mr Garland was 
set at liberty, — with strong injunctions to secrecy as to 
what had taken place, — the next day he went in his 

carriage to reside at Nancy. The reason why Wirion 

preferred bills to the bond ; was, — that it appeared more 
like a debt of honor, whereas a bond would look other- 
wise, and difficult perhaps to get the money. Sir Thos 

Lavie R : N — by some means or other found out the whole 
transaction ; — he wrote off immediately to Messrs Lafitte 
and Perrigaux about the matter ; — and had their answer 
perfectly to his satisfaction. 

" Wirion, to make sure of the money, sent off his trusty 

aid du Camp to get them discounted ; but the answer 

was, that they would not answer any bills of Mr Garlands, 
for more than a hundred pounds at a time : — therefore the 

bills were of no use : When the faithful Mercury 

returned with this information : — Wirion was for setting 
off for Nancy, — but he was informed by his spies, that Sir 
Thos Lavie was the person who dared meddle with his 
affairs : — he arrested Sir Thomas, and sent him off to 


the Fort of Mont-Medy, and put him in solitary con- 

" Ten days after, — orders arrived from the Minister of 
war, desiring Wirion to send Sir Thos Lavie — immediately 
to Paris with a free passport ; — this came like a thunder- 
bolt, and a death blow to Wirion and his plans ; Off 

flew his aid du Camp to Montmedy, and brought back Sir 
Thos Lavie : — the General was polite in the extreme to 
him ; — made humble apologies for his conduct ; — and 
begged his friendship for the future, — Two days after, he 
showed him the letter from the Minister of war, as if he 
had Just received it, — at the same time, presented him 
with a passport, and detained him to breakfast. — 

" Wirion was also ordered to Paris, to account for some 
public monies and other things — before the Minister 
of war ; — When Sir Thos Lavie arrived at Paris — he 
underwent a brief examination which sealed the doom and 
ruin of Wirion : — his arrest was ordered : — He took a 
pistol and shot himself ! ! — When Buonaparte was in- 
formed of his death ; — he said — ' He ought to have done 
it long ago — 

" Wirion was succeeded by a still more consumate 
Rogue ; — Colonel Courcelles ; — his whole character was a 
melange of cruelty, — cunning, — hypocrisy, — and avarice, 
— although, not so splendid a villain as his predecessor : — 

he had more art to conceal his method of extortion : 

He had long aspired to be Governor ; — and when he 
assumed the command ; — he said, — ' If my power was 
not limited over these rascals of Englishmen ; — I would 
shut them all up in the dungeons of the Citadel, — and 
give them water from the ditch. — 

" He had a coadjutor with him named Masson ; — Lieu- 
tenant of the Gendarmirie, — a good meaning man enough ; 

if he had not been led astray ; he began his roguery in 

pence, and ended in pounds ; — every art that could be 
resorted to ; was done to pillage the poor prisoners — One 
would have thought ; that Wirions example was sufficient 


warning for them both ; but money ; — money was the 

devil : a few months after he took the command ; — A 

Lieutenant and two midshipmen deserted from Verdun : — 
— on which account, all the rest, to the number of about 
one hundred and forty, were shut up in the Convent of 
the Citadel for twelve months : — at last a petition was 
sent to the Minister of war, about the large sums of money 
that crept into the Governors pockets : — stopped from the 
Middies allowance, for soi-disant — repairs — in the Con- 
vent,— also, complaining of the injustice of being shut up 
for the fault of others : — 

" The petition had the desired effect — Two com- 
missioners arrived from Paris to make the proces — 
verbal; — when Masson the Lieutenant, became so 
frightened, for having robbed the public money : — went 
under the ramparts of the Town, and shot himself!! — a 
very lucky affair for Mr Courcelles ; as the whole of the 
blame now, rested on the dead man. — yet, for all that — he 
was disgraced with heavy suspicions : — and glad he was 
to get off under such easy terms. — 

" He was replaced by the Baron de Bauchene, a most 
excellent and good man : — every prisoner — enjoyed security 
and peace, — if not comfort : — Unfortunately, he did not 
Command the depot but a few months ; — He died from 
the effect of some old wounds ; — regretted by all the 
prisoners, and by every body who knew him : — a large 
subscription was raised to crrect a monument to his 
memory : — by the prisoners, but Boney would not allow 
it ; — so the money was given to his widow. 

'• The reason why the gambling house was done away 
with, was, that money was scarce with the prisoners ; — 
and no more pigeons to pluck : — very few, among all 

the great gamblers were fortunate. A certain person 

had general good luck ; and managed to win from 
the frenchmen, about ten thousand pounds altogether ; — 
his lawful spouse, was in Keeping at Paris by a French 
officer of rank. — — she paid him frequent visits for 


money ; on one occasion, she came post from Paris, and 

found her lord and master at breakfast with his chere 
amie : — — ' How do you do my dear, — said she — most 
cordially to each of them : — then turning to her husband, 
said — I'm come for some money ; — I want to pay my 
debts in Paris ; — also my beau's ; — I hear you have been 
extremely fortunate. — so let me have some, — and I'll 
remain with you until to morrow morning ; — How much 
do you want said he ? — Give me what you can spare, and 
I'll not trouble you again these six months : — -he did so. — 
and she departed the next morning ; — with a most cordial 
bye-bye — Can I do any-thing for you in Paris ? — o-mores ! ! 

" A doctor Johnson — was taken prisoner at sea, on 
board a merchant ship ; — gave every reason to believe that 
he was a lunatic : — on the road, the guards were obliged 
to tie him down in the cart : — After his arrival at Verdun, 
he appeared to have changed his raving, for a settled 
melancholy madness : — It was not of that nature to 
make it necessary to confine him : — This continued for 
about two years ; — At last a fit came on ; and the Gen- 
darmes took him, raving to prison ; — The next day, he 

appeared well again, and received from his banker the 

sum of thirty pounds in french crowns ; he was to 

have been let out of prison the next morning, but, another 
fit came on ; — he began making a most tremendous noise, 
— and threw all his money out of the window into the street, 
a handfull at a time, — and seemed delighted, in making 

such a fine scramble among the boys : This conduct 

was fully represented to the minister of war; He was 

considered a nuisance, and ordered to be sent home to 
England ; — he arrived safe at home, — and was quite sound 
of mind ; — he having played the madman so well, and 
with such perseverance, that he finally succeeded in 
regaining his liberty. — 

" Many duels took place at Verdun, some ended fatally : 
The first, was between a Mr Gould an Irish gentle- 


man : — and Monsieur Balby — proprietor of the Gambling 

house, and grand master of the black legs from Paris. 

Mr Gould by a run of great good luck at rouge et noir, — 
won about Six thousand pounds ! — his good fortune seemed 
to continue, — when one night Mr B. took it in his head to 
insult him. — 

"It was customary at the Table, when any person said ; — 

so much on such a colour ; was as sufficient ; as if the 

money was laid down on the colour named : — — Gould 
said — A hundred louis on the red ; — sa-va said the dealer; 
— He won ; but Balby refused to pay it, — from the money 
not being put down ; — high words arose, — at last Balby 
tore the lappet of Gould's coat ; — this led to a challenge, — 
Next morning the parties met, Just outside the Town 
at an Inn; — and they fought in a dancing room; — They 
were both good shots ; — Balby had the first fire, — but 
missed ; — yet the ball passed through the collar of Goulds 
coat ; — — Goulds shot took away a part of the calf of 
Balby's leg, — he was carried to a couch where the surgeons 

found it a very bad wound to cure ; When Gould left 

the room, he was seized by a party of Gendarmes and sent 
oft" immediately to the Fort of Bitche : — It was nearly 
three months before Balby could move about on crutches ; 
— one morning he left Verdun in his carriage for Paris; — 
in a week he returned ; — passed through Verdun, — only 
stopping to change horses : — In a week more, he returned 
with Gould seated by him ; — This generous and honorable 
conduct, raised him high in the estimation of every body; 
— he had been to the minister of war for that express 
purpose ; — he said he could not rest, until Gould was at 
liberty : — ever after, they were intimate friends. — 

" The next was between Capt Alexander of the marines, 
and Lieut Tuckey both of His Majesty ship Calcutta ; — 
occasioned by some remarks made by — Capt A — on the 
discipline of the ship ; — the Lieut was severely wounded 
in the arm. 

" Another was fought between Lieutenant Aprece R:N:, 


and Capt Ridley of the marines, — Aprece was severely 
wounded. — 

" Another between Lieut's Miles — and Walpole R:N 
about Miles's girl — he threatened to horsewhip Walpole, — 
this ended in a duel, and Miles was shot dead : — he was a 
very fine young man : — 

" Again Capt Alexander, and Lieut Barker R:N — 
occasioned by a doctor Clark ; — This man having drank 
tea with an amiable English Family spread a report, that 
the lady of the house wanted to poison him ; — Capt 
Alexander was commenting on the absurdity of it, among 
some of his countrymen ; — knowing the doctor was some- 
times not in his right senses, — When Barker came forward 
and desired him not to speak of it, again ; as he was the 
friend of the family in question ; — the insulting tone in 
which the reproof was given : — demanded an explanation, 

that ended in a duel : — and Barker was shot dead ; 

Thus ended the life of a brave — humane, and worthy 
man. — 

" Another between Capt Penrice of the Army, and 
Lieutt Conran R:N, occasioned at a supper table. — a 
gentleman was singing a song — Conran was vice president, 
— Capt Penrice was talking somewhat loud ; — when 
Conran called-out ; — Capt Penrice: — silence for Mr Mays 
song ; — they only exchanged looks : — as soon as the song 
was over, — each withdrew with a friend ; — an explanation 

took place, — and they both returned to the Table : 

Capt Penrice after this ; was induced through the weighty 
and persuasive eloquence of a great man, to reconsider the 
affair, and call Conran out ; — they went out ; — it was 
said — merely to exchange shots by firing wide of each 

other : they did so, but Capt Penrice's ball struck a 

tree, — glanced off, and killed Conran on the spot ; so 

much for Eloquence ; — 

" The last fatal one that took place, was between two 
midshipmen ; — Messrs Morris and Scott — — the former 
was called out for black-balling the other at a Club, — 


Scott was shot dead ; — he was scarcely nineteen years 
of age, and the only son of an old Post Captain. — 

" This year 18 10, many overtures were made by the 
British government to Buonaparte for an exchange of 

prisoners ; but all to no purpose, — and it was finally 

decreed ; that there should be no exchange whatever, until 
the end of the war, which appeared to last as long as 
Boney lived : — here was a pretty prospect ! ! both for young 
and old ! ! the miserable perspective of an eternal imprison- 
ment ; — all hopes and prospects — for myself, — in my pro- 
fession ; — seemed to vanish. — I have often sat at my prison 
window : — looking through the bars at the setting sun : 
figuring to myself ; that I saw in the clouds an Island : — 
or rather ; the reflection of my dear native land ; then it 
seemed like the sea and Ships ; — in fact, my whole imagina- 
tion was on my Country : — but when night closed in, I 
retired to my bed of straw, hove a sigh, — solicited the 
protection of heaven ; then slept to renew the same 
thoughts on the ensuing day. — 

" Well, to make the best of my ill fortune ; — I turned 

Benedict ; that is to say got married It was the best 

thing I could do to secure some portion of happiness in 
this world ; — for heaven knows I had tasted enough of its 

bitterness even to the very dregs : so with the best 

little soul in the world, I made my mind up to twenty 
years more captivity. — 

" But that unfortunate star of mine, did not chuse to 
abandon me even in this sublunary happiness : — I was 
doomed still to more troubles and adversities : equal in 

mind and body to any ; I had yet undergone 

There was a very fine River at Verdun ; — The Meuse: — I 
was extremely fond of fly-fishing, I was out one day 
enjoying myself at this innocent recreation : when I was 
met by a person, with whom I had a very slight acquaint- 
ance ; — The Honorable Henry Dillon, — Colonel on half 
pay ; — formerly in the french Irish brigades ; as paddy may 
say — but now, receiving the reward of those services ; 


from the british government ! — since the Revolution : — He 
hated England ; and if ever he served her ; it was to her 

prejudice : We first accosted each other with the 

common place compliments — of fine weather &c at 

last, it took another lead : — He asked me, if I had not 
heard of a frenchman in Verdun, who was in the habit of 
assisting some of the prisoners to desert with false 
passports : — I said — I knew there was such a man ; — but 
that I never saw him in my life : — he then said, — I was 
told by a Friend, that you could inform me all about 
him ; — consequently a friend of mine wishes to see him as 
he is inclined to desert, rather than remain here any 
longer ; — especially ; since family affairs requires his 
presence in England : — ' Pray who is your Friend Colonel ? 

said I ' Oh — said he ' that's a secret. Keep it 

then Sir — said I finding he could not gain the in- 
formation he wished from me : — he sat himself down on 
the bank and began to shed tears — I was alarmed at this, 
for — I could not bear to see it in an old man — Well 
Colonel said I — if you will confide in me, and tell what 
you have to say in a candid manner, — I promise you, that 
you shall know the man you ask for : — 

" Well then said he it is for myself : — I am so much in 
debt both at this place and in Paris, that I am miserable : 

— I have been seperated from my family many years : 

I then in return promised to take him to the person in 
question, at nine o'clock that evening : — — we met 
according to appointment and I took him to the house : — 
— I repeat again, that I never knew the man prior to this 

moment, But the house ; — and his wife had been 

pointed out to me only a few days before, by a friend ; — It 
was curiosity that prompted me beyond all prudence to 
see this man ; — and what were the arrangements he 
intended to make with Colonel Dillon. — 

" He, for a trifle purchased among the peasants, and 
others ; — passports that had been used, and that served 
for the year : — He then spread them out on a board quite 


wet : — with a fine hair pencil, he took out all the writing 
excepting the Prefects signature — with a chymical prepara- 
tion, — then filled it up, Just as it was wanted ; — and would 
even accompany the person and see him out of the country 
for twenty guineas. — 

" Colonel Dillon was to go by the way of Holland under 

the name of Henry Delisle, retired officer; everything 

was concluded and settled that very evening, for the paltry 
sum of five Louis : — The passport was ready the next 

day ; — he had it, — but did not pay for it ; three days 

had passed on and no signs of his departure ; — we knew 
also from experience, that it would soon be blown all over 
the Town ; — I went and urged him to depart or destroy 
the passport ; — he assured me, that he would go and pay 

the man, and set off next morning. 1 was satisfied 

with this assurance ; — But, on the following morning, — I 
was roused by a person, — saying that Monsieur Lambry — 
the Procureur Imperial requested my attendance at eight 
o'clock that morning in his Study, — I went there, and 
found the Judge ready to receive me : — He began by 
asking me, if I was not acquainted with a Frenchman 
at Verdun, by the name of Page, who lived in the rue 

Chausser : 1 denied all knowledge of the person so 

named : — and well I might for I never heard the name 
before : — but the street struck me immediately, and set me 

all of a ilutter : ' Pray then Sir — said he ; — coming to 

the point — ' did you not, three nights ago, take a certain 
person there for a false passport : — and — were you not 
present at the whole of the transaction and making the 
bargain ? — I said — I did not understand what he meant — 
— ' Well then Sir — said he ' did you not take Colonel 
Dillon there for a passport ? — and was he not to go by way 
of Rotterdam under the name of Delisle ? — I was so 

astonished at this that I could not reply ' The case is 

this said he — ' Here is the identical passport, 1 knew 

it immediately : but by what means he got hold of it 
I knew not ' We have been long looking for this man ; 


said he — and Colonel Dillon has been the means of dis- 
covering the fellow — who is now in prison ; — he will be 
tried for it next Sessions at St Mihiel ; — Colonel Dillon 
is to be a witness against him ; and — you must be another, 

— that this man may be punished according to law : 

I now said — Monsieur Lambry — Of all the various inci- 
dents of my, life — this piece of treacherous villainy is 
beyond every thing : — Colonel Dillon was always suspected 
of being a spy on his unfortunate countrymen, — this 
instance now proves him one ; — the dastardly scoundrel, 
who can shed tears and betray the man who befriends 
him ; — ought to be shunned by all society : — by giving up 
the passport : — I see that he had two reasons ; — The first, 
— he did not possess courage sufficient to make the 
attempt ; — the next was he was afraid of the Fort of 
Bitche ; — consequently he chose to make a virtue of a 
necessity by denouncing me, — and the man : — Then Claim 
the reward as a spy. — he may go as a witness — but not 

I ; ' Then ; said he — ' you must go back to Bitche for 

the rest of the war, and we will do without you : — but if on 
the other hand you will go against this said Page ; — you 
shall have the parole of any Town in France, Paris 
excepted; — recollect also, that you are married, and the 
Fort of Bitche will not be very pleasant for a delicate 

young lady : 1 told him ' that my mind was made up, 

that my wife had wedded my good and bad fortunes ; 
but, I was certain, — she would rather see me dead than 
dishonoured. — 

" With that I left the house and in an hour after I was 
arrested ; — handcuffed, and sent off to the Fort of 

" I marched as usual through mud and rain ; — visited 
my old prisons I had been in before ; — and in eight days I 
arrived at Bitche, and took possession of my old berth in 
the souterrain. 

" Very few changes had taken place in this depot ; — 
things went on in the old way : — I had left my wife at 


Verdun with her family, she was the only anxiety I had 

on my mind : 1 remained here nearly two years, 

then a great change took place in Boney's affairs : — when 
at last orders came for our removal from Bitche to Sedan. 
— During the last ten months I had been as comfortable 
as at Verdun ; — The Commandant was kind enough, to 
give me two furnished rooms in the Fort, and permitted 
my wife to be with me, and permission very frequently to 
go into Town for a walk. — 

" It was now about the latter end of the year 1813, that 
disasters one after the other followed Boney wherever he 
went : — his troops that escaped from the sword of the 
enemy, — were swept away by thousands, from a sickness 
that resembled a plague. — 

" We were six days going to Sedan ; — every fortified 
Town on the road was getting a stock of provisions in case 
of a seige. 

" On our arrival at Sedan, we found every thing in great 
confusion owing to the Allied armies having passed the 
Rhine, and had entered the sacred territory of France in 
all directions, and sans-ceremonie : — The Commandant 
of the Town was the Baron de Wasronville, — whose kind- 
ness to the prisoners and myself in particular, will be for 
ever uppermost in my thoughts, — and with grateful 
rememberance. — 

" My wife was very near her confinement, — when orders 
arrived to remove the prisoners to Amiens; — In this 
dreadful dilemma, — -I went to the Baron Wasronville, — 
and stated my situation, and begged in the name of 
humanity to allow me to remain as my wife expected her 
accouchement every hour ;— and that, if we were obliged 
to move off with the rest of the prisoners, she must only 
expect to perish on the road. — 

" He desired me to go into Town and get lodgings; — saying 
at the same time — ' Keep within doors, do not go out but 
in cases of necessity, and you may remain until your good 
lady is recovered ; then you shall proceed by yourselves to 


your depot : — This was really a most unexpected kindness, 

— But he was a Pole ! ! 1 went into town, and by the 

help of a friend whom my wife knew at Verdun, we pro- 
cured comfortable lodgings : In the evening my wife 

was safely delivered of a fine girl. — We were extremely 
poor ; — not above three crowns in our possession, and 
where to get any more we could not tell ; all the Banks 
were shut ; — people were burying their valuables in their 
cellars, and gardens. — 

" The Cossacks were in constant motion, and they had 
been seen not far from Sedan, — This news struck fear to 

the Bourgois ; and trembling to the females : It was 

the severest winter known for many years ; the Ther- 
mometer, was frequently twenty degrees below zero 

so, that had we proceeded to Amiens with the prisoners ; 
both my wife and child must have perished with cold. 

"In this Town, I witnessed all the horrors attending the 
retreat of a beaten army : — here it was felt with the bitter 
recollection of their former glory : A dreadful mor- 
tality prevailed among the french soldiers : — every day, 
for more than a month, waggons full of poor wretches 

were brought to the hospital : It was not only at 

Sedan that this calamity prevailed ; — but it was in every 
Town, within a hundred leagues along the whole extent of 
the banks of the Rhine : — At Metz, the black flag was 
hoisted on the Church Steeples : — The waggons used 

to hold twenty Sick soldiers : in taking them out 

into the — hospital, five or six were — generally found 
dead : — and seldom less than three : — every morning, 
forty or fifty bodies were thrown into a pit, and covered 
with quick lime : — It was a plague — or contagion, that 
spread unfortunately among the inhabitants : — and at 
Charleville, it swept away many families : — The markets 
were abandoned : — not a shop to be seen : and Trade 
entirely at a stand : — fear and anxiety was painted on 
every countenance : — Each courrier brought fresh news of 
the enemy, and of their near approach : At last, the 


Town was in great consternation : — The Cossacks had 
surprised the Town of Carrignau, — only nine miles off, and 
had taken Seven hundred Polish Lancers who were there 
to guard it prisoners, with all their horses and baggage : — 
five hundred Cossacks only ; performed this exploit : — By 
a forced march they reached the neighbourhood about two 
in the morning : — they met a peasant on the road, who 
they forced to be their guide, and threatened him with 
death if he did not conduct them to the gates of the 
Town ; — a hundred of them dismounted — about a quarter 
of a mile from the Town, and proceeded on to the Gates, 
with the utmost caution ; — The peasant went first with 
two Cossacks ; — all the rest lied down about twenty paces 
off: — on knocking, the Centinel called out 'qui vive ? — the 
parole was given by the peasant, — the wicket was opened 
and in they went, the Two Cossacks dispatched the 
Centinal and peasant also ; — The Trumpter ran out to 
sound the alarm — was killed ; — — All the Cossacks 
entered the Town, with the greatest silence — went to 
the Barracks and took Seven hundred Lancers in their 
beds, with their horses already saddled ; they loaded a 
waggon with the arms : — and in less than a half an hour 
were all out of the Town : — This daring exploit kept every 
body in Sedan on the Alert ;— The picquets were drove 
in— in every direction ; — the noise of cannon was heard 

distinctly within the line of Sedan towards Paris. 

" Three weeks had elapsed since my wife's confinement, 
when I received orders to depart for Amiens that night ; — 
I ran to the Commandant, — and begged him to allow me 
to stop one week more ; as both my wife and child could 
never undertake the Journey ; — the weather was colder 
than ever — (January 1814) — He said — I can do nothing 
more for you ;— In fact, I have got myself already into a 
scrape by allowing you to remain ; — I am only Com- 
mandant of the Fort ; — The General of the Division has 
said, that I protect, and encourage the enemies of France. 
— so depart you must, — go and get yourself ready : — Well 


Sir — said I — your kindness towards me shall never be 
forgotten, I thank you with gratitude for what you have 
already done for me : — but only consider my situation, and 
you will not blame me for endeavouring to remain a short 
time longer : — another thing, I have not a farthing to 
commence my Journey : — we have had no pay these 
two months ; — What in God's name am I do do ? 

" ' This is certainly a trying case said he : — There is no 
money in the military chest : — what can I do for you ? — I 

have but little of my own : He went into the next 

room, — returned with twelve crowns which he put into my 
hand ; — saying ; — ' pay me this when we meet again ; — or 
else, seek to help a sufferer like yourself in the same 
manner. — I was so struck with this noble generosity, — 
that I could only shake him by the hand, let fall a tear of 
gratitude on it ; instead of thanks ; which was out of my 
power to utter : — The Noble Pole ! ! bade me bon voyage, 
— and I returned to my lodgings to prepare for my 
departure : — — I sold some plate that I had for two 
shillings and sixpence per ounce ; which raised me twelve 
crowns more. — 

" The Allied army were now on their road to Paris ; — 
The Cossacks had been seen reconnoitring round the Town 

of Sedan ; — — It was about nine o'clock in the 

evening — and a hard frost in the begining of February 

1 814 It was a most bitter cold night ; — The Gendarmes 

came for me to take me away : — I had hired a small 
covered cart, to take my wife and babe to a Village a little 
beyond Charleville : — In it, I placed — a bed ; blankets — 
and stone bottles of hot water to keep them warm : — The 
driver I knew I could trust : — therefore I desired him to 
get on as fast as he could, that they might have some rest 
by the time I arrived : 

" It was a bright moon light : — the snow on the road 
was hard and slippery, such as the french call verglas ; — 
the Gendarmes were four in number but, the sirjeant who 
was afraid of losing me on the road : — tied me by one hand 


to the ring in his saddle About midnight : — we had 

passed Mezieres and Charleville : — and not far from the 
village, where I desired the Cart to stop for me : — The 
conversation on the road was all about the enemy, es- 
pecially the Cossacks : — that they were a despicable set of 
cowardly robbers ; — that one french soldier would beat any 
ten of them ; — we were near a road that turned off towards 

Rocroy : — all of a sudden, we saw four horsemen ! ! at 

the first sight of them, we took them for the Polish Lancers 
who were out on picquet ; — but, the hourra they set up, 

let us know they were Cossacks : the brave Gendarmes 

did not like to wait their coming alongside ; — but about- 

Ship and set out as hard as the could go : 1, not 

liking to be towed at the rate of nine knots, at the risk of 
my neck, especially seeing deliverance at hand : — — I 
caught hold of the bridle, and stopped the horse so 
suddenly ; — at the same time giving a good pull at the 
sirjeants big cloak, that he came off his seat, and measured 
his length on the ground ; — one of the Cossacks pulled up 

close to us ; — alarmed at his dreadful lance : 1 called 

out — Englander — ' Gendarme — pointing to my brave Ser- 
jeant — the Cossack understood well what I said ; — he 

made me mount ; and take the Gendarmes place ; who 

was now begging my protection that they would not kill 
him : — the Cossack made take his Cloak, reserving the 

sword, Carbine, and pistols for himself. 1 now took my 

Gentleman in Tow; — and arrived at the Village Just 
before us, where I found the Cart had arrived, but detained 
by the Cossacks : — on my arrival I found my wife by a 
snug fire: — — This was the head quarters of fifteen 
hundred Cossacks ; — The Commander spoke a little 
German, and was delighted in being the means of setting 
me at liberty : — He informed us that all the way to 
Brussels was full of the Allied troops, — and that I might 
travel in safety, — hearing this, I retired to rest for the 

night ; The next morning I found that the other three 

Gendarmes were below in stable ; — I went to see them, 


and praised their bravery ; They begged in the most 

abject manner for my protection ; — I told them, that they 
had been my most affectionate friends these ten years ; — 
— I wished them good bye — with their own favourite 
saying, when they used to be clapping — the darbies on our 
wrists : — C'est la fortune de guerre mon ami : — 

" After Breakfast I set out towards Mons, in a comfort- 
able covered Car on springs ; — with a heart overflowing 
with Joy at my being at liberty ; — It was strange beyond 
every thing, to be travelling in a chaise, without a 

Gendarme trotting alongside of it : not a soul was to 

be seen on the road for fear of the Cossacks ; — In the 
evening we arrived at Chi may ; — where there were about 
three thousand Cossacks under the Command of their 
Hetman Prince Platoff : — there were a great many more : — 
but they were out in different directions clearing the roads 
for the passage of the Allied army — 

" The surprizing courage of the Cossacks ; and their 
rapid movements kept every Town and village in continual 
alarm and terror; — An instance of daring courage and 
great presence of mind, — I will describe ; — I saw the very 
man, who this extraordinary feat of arms : — This single 
Cossack, was sent during the night as an estaffette from 
one division to another, but, a fog coming on, he un- 
fortunately missed his road : — In the morning it cleared 
up ; when to his astonishment, he found himself close to 
the Town of Rocroy, a strong fortified place, and in a state 
preparatory to a siege ; — On his right was a wood, on his 

left a small river. within a half a mile of the Town the 

road winded off in a kind of semicircular direction towards 
Philipville : — he was obliged to proceed by this road : Just 
at the turn, he saw three Gendarmes coming out of 
Rocroy towards him ; — retreat was impossible — therefore, 
he very deliberately prepared to meet them : — —They 
came on him at full trot : — his faithful Carbine was ready : 
— he made sure of the foremost, and shot him dead : — the 


next one he killed with his lance : — the other, fired his 
pistol but missed : — the Cossack unhorsed him, and took him 
prisoner : — Thus, he rode along in Triumph under the walls 
of Rocroy ; — where many of the inhabitants were witnesses 
of the whole affair ; — no one dared to follow him ; — but he 
was complimented by some cannon shot from the Ramparts, 
— which was to him, — a kind salute for his bravery. — 

" On our road to Chimay, we dined at Charle- 

mont, — where the Landlady of the Inn told us a laugh- 
able story : — ' You must know Sir — said she — ' That three 
days ago — I had a very large compan}' to dinner — Thirty 

Gendarmes, and twenty — Rat-de-Caves, excisemen : 

they were all come in from different districts, on account 
of the enemy, and were going to Rocroy as a place of 
security : — They were all in such high spirits ; — boasting 
that they would beat two hundred Cossacks if they could 
meet them ; — especially the Sirjeant Major, who said he 
would take any five of them to himself: — Just as the 
Supervisor was in the act of mixing the salad, a peasant 
came in and said ; that the Cossacks were at Philipville, 
and were coming on to this place full gallop : — In an instant 
all was confusion ; — some made their exit by the fore and 
back doors, — some by the windows, all crowding to the 
Stables ; — The Gendarmes were first mounted : — the 
Excisemen had to saddle their horses ; — away they set off 
pell mell towards Rocroy, — leaving our poor village ex- 
posed to the enemy; — The excisemen, were soon after the 
Gendarmes, — Calling on them to stop, that they might 
protect each other : — but, the Gendarmes mistaking their 
voices for the hourra of the Cossacks, spurred on at a devil 
of a rate, — thus ; they chaced each other to the gates of the 
Town, nor did they think themselves safe until they were 
admitted inside : — The result was ; Three Cossacks only, 
entered the Town the same evening ; — and the dinner not 
paid for which amounted to Six louis : — 

" When Marshal Macdonald — was retreating — after the 


defeat he met with in Holland, — by Generals Graham and 
Bulow ; — he halted with his army about Seven thousand 

men at Mons : the Cossacks continually harrassed his 

rear ; — twelve hundred of them were waiting anxiously at 
one of the Gates of the Town, the commencement of the 
French retreating by the other, a single Cossack, more 

impatient than the rest, rode into the Town, crossed 

the square where the French troops were drawn up; — 
proceeded to a Blacksmiths shop, and made the man shoe 
his horse : — he stood smoaking his pipe, as The troops 
marched past him. — This piece of effrontery was beyond 
every thing ever before heard of ; — It was a wonder they 
did not kill him, — or at least take him away as a prisoner ! 
— There he stood, the picture of downright audacity : — as 
soon as his horse was shod ; — he Joined his companions, — 
galloped through the Town, and brought back with them 
a hundred and Sixty of the rear guard as prisoners, — that 
same evening. — 

" The Cossacks are a most extraordinary race of people ; 
— very uncouth and barbarous in their appearance and 
manners ; — they are highly disciplined ; — all difficulties are 
overcome by their perseverance ; whatever they undertake, 
they seldom fail to accomplish ; — when mounted, they look 
like a set of banditti : — dresses of all shapes and colours : — 
on entering a Town, their first care is their horses, which 

they prize beyond all others : — and well they may : for 

they are the most surprizing little animals in the universe ; 
— the largest of them not more than thirteen hands high ; — 
something like our new forest ponies, — but with larger 
heads. — In fact, both master and horse, are pretty near 
alike in point of beauty, — A Cossack dismounted, — is 
awkward in his gait, — slow in his motions, and universally 
bow-legged : — His stature short and square, but of great 
muscular strength ; — his lance from twelve to fifteen feet 

long ; — his carbine Short and light : his sword, much 

curved, well tempered, and as sharp as a razor : — his 
pistols finely ornamented ; — his Knout, which is a whip 


made of a single thong of hide, with an iron bead on the 
end of it, instead of a lash : — which he exercises without 
mercy, both on man and beast, is his full equipment, — he 
takes the field : — holds death in contempt, and thinks of 
nothing but fighting and plunder. — On entering the house 
where he is billeted ; — his first demand, is — a tumbler of 
snaps, — Brandy, — which if not forthcoming, he flourishes 
his magical wand the Knout, and makes it speak all 
Languages ; — He then examines the linen press ; — takes a 
shirt, — stockings, and a handkerchief, from it, and changes 
before all hands : — leaving the dirty ones in lieu ; — he next 
orders his dinner, it must be roast meat, or fowl ; — but his 
favourite dish, is a Capon — stuffed with a head of Garlic 

and sausages ; — Then boiled in Brandy ; ! ! ' Oh Doctor 

Kitchener — had you known this epicurian dish ; — the very 
recipe^ would have immortalised your name for ever; and 
handed it down — to posterity ; — as being the ultimatum of 
refined cookery. — As for poor Mrs Glasse ! she would have 
died broken hearted, that another should have known this 

savoury dish — but herself. 

"The Cossacks are great gluttons, — and greater 

drunkards ; Although scarce able to stand, when once 

mounted, they seldom fail in their duty : — they are very 
fond of fine clothes ; never mind of what colour or fashion ; 
— the texture was every thing ; — Joseph's coat of many 
colours, would have had the same chance of choice, — as 
the one made by Stultz — the dandy Taylor ; — so, if they 
see a coat they like better than their own ; — the exchange 
must be made ; — or his Knout the language master, 
explains itself most powerfully ; — some of them appear 
like Hamlets — grave-digger when taking off their coats; — 
generally four or five ; one over the other according to 
size : — — I saw a regiment of them at Mons, ready to 
march off ; — such a motley crew ! — They looked like a gang 
of robbers ; — at the head of this regiment — was a fellow 

with a big drum ; Stolen : — (captured goods I mean) 

no doubt ; and such beautiful ears for music ! — The officer 


gave the word : — March : — the advanced company struck 
up a song, — at the Chorus all hands Joined in with the big 
drum. — 

" Every body was stopped on the road to be examined ; 

— they invariably asked, — how much further to Paris : 

such were the Cossacks I met with in the netherlands : — 
but, since that time, I saw some with Prince Platoff, — quite 
a different race of men ; — a noble soldier-like appearance 
and regularly uniformed. — 

" There were also some Tartar Cossacks ; — all the way 
from the Crimea — better mounted, but not such good 
enterprizing soldiers : — They were Ugly beyond every 
thing : — — Broad low foreheads : — small round black 
eyes like the Chinese : — high cheek bones, large mouths, — 
black teeth, — pug noses, — small chins, — and a beautiful 
copper complexion : — From their being armed with bows 
and arrows ; — the French ladies called them les Cupidons 

du Nord ; ' Bless their ugly faces for setting me at 

liberty. — 

"At Mons, General Bulow gave me a passport, — with 
an order for a post chaise, and to be supplied with an 
officers Table and appartments, at any Inn I might chose 
to stop at on my road, as far as Flushing : — I objected at 
first about the table being supplied ; — but I was over-ruled 
by his saying, it was a regulation made by the French 
authorities themselves, and that I might as well enjoy the 
privilege as others. — 

" He asked me what rank he should say I was in my 
passport : — I told him — A Midshipman : — Midshipman 
said he ! — ' What rank is that ? — like your sous-lieu- 
tenants or Ensigns, said I. Suppose I say you are a 

Colonel ; said he ; — you will have greater attention paid 

you, and fare all the better : 1 said : — If he pleased he 

might make me a General : — however, I was made a 
Captain in my passport, and as such entitled to a good 
allowance on the road, — he gave me a few letters to put 


into the post in London — which made it appear that I 
was the bearer of dispatches ; — So much the better for 
a Carriage and good horses — all the way. — 

" Before I leave the Continent; I cannot possibly omit 
an anecdote that ought to be known as a base piece of 
ingratitude : — 

" During the war a French General (Simon) then a 
prisoner of war in England, for some urgent reason had 
been ordered into solitary confinement ; — as a matter of 
reprisal ; — the same treatment was observed to one of our 
General Officers then a prisoner of war at Verdun, — who 

was incarcerated within the Convent at St Vannes ; 

With a threat ; — that whatever befel General Simon in 

England — would be retaliated on him ; He did not 

bear this rigourous treatment with the philosophy of a 
high mind— but, complained of his detention with bitter 
anguish. — Among the prisoners who sometimes partook 
of his hospitality ; — was a Midshipman by the name of 
Whitefield, — (afterwards a Lieutenant for his gallant 
conduct at Algiers — and since dead) — This gentleman, 
with the undeliberating frankness of his profession, offered 
to seize on the two Centinels who guarded the Convent 
door : — he being a man of lofty stature, and amazing 
powerful strength : — and by that means, facilitate the 
Generals escape : — — but whether he anticipated his 
release : — or whether his nerves could not be worked up 
for exertion ; — Mr Whitefields generous devotedness was 
politely declined, with a profusion of promises of future 
patronage ;— On the Entrance of the Allies into Paris, in 
the year 1814, — many English prisoners met there on 
their way to England : — Mr Whitefield was there among 
others, who happened to be in a state of temporary 
embarrassment,— and very natural ; as all the Banks were 
closed owing to the presence of two hundred thousand 
bayonnets ; — Mr Whitefield applied to the General for 
a small supply to help him home : — To whom could he 
have addressed himself — with more certainty of success, 


than to the man for whom he had with a loyalty un- 
precedented offered to risk his life ; — with a Certainty of 
falling a sacrifice to his romantic generosity ; — This great 
man with a hauteur of mind not well poised ; — offered his 
noble champion a Crown piece ! — which was instantly 
rejected with contempt and with that independence ; — 
which ever accompanies a generous and feeling heart, 
capable of high deeds of valour and of honor. — 

" I travelled post all the way from Brussels to Flushing ; 
— from thence, I crossed over to Harwich, and Landed 
in Old England after an Absence of nearly ten years : — 
thus ; the best of my life from Sixteen to Six and twenty 

were past as a prisoner of war. ' Alls well that ends 

well— " 


THESE are some of the experiences of one of the most 
distinguished of the British Naval Captains taken by 
Napoleon — some ten in all fell into the enemy's hands 
throughout the war — 'Captain Sir Jahleel Brenton. He 
was captured, together with his ship's company, off Cher- 
bourg on July 2, 1803, in consequence of his frigate, the 
Minerve, stranding in a dense fog on one of the great 
cones of stone sunk at the entrance to the roadstead as 
part of the foundations of Cherbourg breakwater. Cap- 
tain Brenton and his men made a gallant and stubborn 
defence, keeping up a fierce fight for ten hours against the 
cliff batteries and a swarm of gunboats which assailed 
them at close quarters, but the wind falling to a dead 
calm made it impossible to save the ship. The survivors 
of the fight had to surrender, and were taken on shore as 

Epinal in the Vosges, a six-hundred miles march away, 
was named as the place of their detention. 

To raise money for their living expenses on the long 
journey — there being nobody at Cherbourg willing to dis- 
count bills on their London agents — the officers had to 
pawn or sell what private valuables they had saved and 
carried on their persons. Captain Brenton himself offered 
his gold watch in pledge to a merchant from l'Orient, 
whom he met by chance in Cherbourg. He was dealt 
with in the result, he relates, most generously ; the French- 
man in the end refusing to take the watch and accepting 
instead the Captain's note of hand for twenty-five guineas, 
more than the sum first asked. His conscience, declared 



the worthy merchant, would not let him keep the 

The Minerve's prisoners set off from Cherbourg for 
Epinal a week after landing, starting in two detachments. 
The sailors and marines went off first, on July 8, in a 
column of some four hundred men, guarded by cavalry 
and infantry. Captain Brenton and the officers followed 
next day by themselves, in charge of three gendarmes. 
" They treated us," says the Captain, " with respect. We 
received notice of where we were to make our next halts, 
and were allowed to walk in parties as we liked. We 
started," he adds, " in high spirits, expecting that our 
detention would be short ; the younger officers looking on 
it as an adventure, and hoping to see interesting things." 

All went smoothly at the outset. At St. L6, the first town 
of any size they came to, they found the officer in com- 
mand of the district, a General Delagorge, a kindly and 
courteous gentleman. He had, it turned out, received 
hospitality from British officers when a prisoner during 
Sir Ralph Abercrombie's campaign in Egypt, and was 
eager to make return. " He invited me to dine with him," 
says Captain Brenton, " and to bring my First Lieutenant. 
We had an elegant little repast, and every possible atten- 
tion was shown us." When the British party resumed 
their march next day, the General saw them off, and 
wished them a speedy release from captivity. "The 
General," remarks Brenton, " kissed me at parting, to the 
high amusement of the officers and midshipmen." Most 
of the officers while at St. L6 were billeted in the houses 
of the principal inhabitants, who went out of their way to 
show them every kindness. On their arrival, indeed, the 
officers, on going to their billets, found a hearty supper 
awaiting them, and in many of the houses friends of the 
family came in during the evening to assist in entertaining 
the guest of the occasion. During the two days that 
Captain Brenton and his officers remained at St. L6 the 
same generous hospitality in the form of good dinners 


and suppers was shown them, and on their departure at 
sunrise on the third morning, an excellent breakfast was 
placed before them to speed them pleasantly on their way. 
" Nor could these worthy people," records Captain Brenton 
to their credit, " be prevailed upon to receive any indemni- 
fication for the trouble and expense they had incurred." 

Things changed for the worse during the next stage. 
A squad of cavalry now joined the gendarmes, the Lieu- 
tenant in charge of which proved a surly, cross-grained 
individual. He refused to allow any marching at ease ; 
he forbade them walking in groups, or talking. The 
dragoon officer made Brenton and the rest form up in 
ranks and keep together, not speaking a word as they 
tramped along. The dragoons brought with them a 
number of merchantship prisoners from Brest and else- 
where, who had been landed by privateers. These were 
joined on to the Minerve's officers in one column, all being 
compelled to push forward as fast as they could walk, 
regardless of the sufferings of many from lameness and 
sore feet. 

At Caen, where a twenty-four hours' halt was made, 
Captain Brenton met with a personally unpleasant ex- 
perience. The French General in command there was a 
rough, bad-tempered brute. He had the prisoners placed 
under close restraint, and treated them so harshly that 
Brenton had to call on him and indignantly expostulate. 
They were officers on parole and entitled to decent con- 
sideration, he protested. The reply was a coarse rebuff. 
" Je me moque de votre parole d'honneur. Je ne sais pas 
que, c'est moi !" retorted the ill-conditioned boor with a 
sneer. Captain Brenton kept his temper, and quietly 
answered : " I will tell you, sir ; it is for a British officer 
stronger than any of your French prisons !" The General 
winced under the rebuke, and then broke out afresh. He 
stormed and threatened to take away the officers' parole 
and treat them as ordinary prisoners. But to that length 
he did not venture to go, no doubt thinking better of it 


for his own sake if a complaint should be lodged against 
him. He continued though his rigorous treatment of the 
officers until they had left Caen. 

They felt the General's hand, indeed, after that, during 
the time that they were passing through his district. On 
the night after they left Caen, at their next halting-place, 
they were all crowded into one room and shut up together 
to eat and sleep there, sentries being posted at the door 
of the room. In reply to Captain Brenton's outspoken 
complaint the officer in charge of the escort showed him 
his orders from the General. In them the officer was 
directed " to guard the prisoners with the utmost severity 
and vigilance, and grant no indulgences." In the end the 
French Captain consented to modify the instructions on 
his own responsibility, Captain Brenton, for his part, un- 
dertaking to be personally answerable for the behaviour 
of the men at the halting-places. On that understanding 
the French officer agreed to permit the prisoners to be 
decently billeted, and relaxed certain harsh measures he 
had been directed to take towards them while on the 

Three days after leaving Caen financial help for their 
immediate needs reached Brenton in a substantial form. 
At St. L6, having learned that the Paris banking house of 
Perregaux Freres had considerable dealings with England, 
he had written to them, asking for a confidential agent to 
be sent to meet him on his journey, in order to receive 
bills of exchange which he and his officers wished to draw 
upon their bankers in England. He suggested that when 
the bills had been negotiated the money might be sent to 
await them at Epinal. At three marches distance from 
Caen, Captain Brenton received the Perregaux's reply ; in 
a practical form that he had hardly anticipated. " We 
were just seated at St. Dennis," says the Captain, " when 
a gentleman from M. Perregaux was announced, who 
brought me three hundred louis in gold and a letter of 
credit for four hundred more on M. Doublat at Epinal, 


with an assurance that any bills endorsed by me should 
be immediately honoured. This conduct was truly noble 
and a high compliment to the British Navy." 

The officers were as usual all dining together, and the 
announcement of the message by Captain Brenton was 
received with cheers. Some of the junior officers and 
midshipmen, we are told, at once shouted out that they 
would have carriages for the rest of the way. " I shan't 
walk any more !" exclaimed one. " I'm going to have a 
carriage, and drive myself," called out another. All the 
conveyances in the place were taken up next day. But 
the carriages turned out not to be of much use. They 
had to be abandoned before very long. As a matter of 
discipline all had to keep together while on the road ; 
none could, of course, be allowed to travel faster than 
at the marching pace of the military escort, three miles 
an hour. That slow progress soon tired the occupants of 
the carriages, who turned out and continued to trudge 
along on foot as before. 

The carriages after that were sent forward to the convoy 
of sailors in advance, and turned to account for carrying 
sick and footsore men — as many as could be crowded into 
them. The seamen's convoy was in charge of mounted 
gendarmes, who relentlessly forced the poor fellows to 
keep pressing on. The gendarmes would not, or could 
not, take in that seamen were not used to long and fast 
marching on shore, and the pace they kept up told cruelly 
on the ill-shod prisoners. Their feet soon got blistered, 
the boots of most of them gave out, and no others to 
replace them were to be procured. The greater number 
of the men as a fact had to get along as best they could 
bare-footed. Many, indeed, broke down altogether, and had 
to be left in hospital in towns the convoy passed through. 
The seamen prisoners also were otherwise abominably 
badly used, particularly in regard to the accommodation 
provided for them. In the towns, when halting for the 
night, the sailors were for the most part crowded into the 



local gaols, which were foul and filthy dens, reeking with 
damp, often with swampy mud floors and water running 
down the walls, and almost unbearable on account of the 
horrible stench. It was no unusual occurrence at that 
time for British prisoners of war to find themselves forced 
to herd with French criminals whom they found locked up 
in the gaols : vagabonds and thieves, and others con- 
demned to penal servitude ; often, as well, with wretched 
conscripts, draggle-tail country lads retaken after having 
run away while being marched to join the colours, or with 
soldiers awaiting trial for desertion. Along the road, 
indeed, they sometimes passed gangs of recalcitrant con- 
scripts, marching chained together like so many convicts, 
being so conveyed after recapture to their regimental 

Epinal was reached on December 17, and there for a 
time the prisoners remained. 

At Epinal, Captain Brenton and his officers rejoined the 
Minerve's seamen, the ship's company, who had been kept 
one day's march ahead of the officers all the time. 
" Several," records the Captain, " were in hospital, all 
were in rags, and starving from bad food and short 

It was found possible, fortunately, to do something for 
the poor fellows, and Captain Brenton at once set to work 
energetically on their behalf. There were a few families 
of English detenus at Epinal, among whom Brenton was 
able to raise a subscription for the prisoners, which pro- 
vided extra clothing for the most ragged. For bedding, 
on finding that insufficient provision had been made by 
the French authorities, the Captain, with what money he 
had in hand, and obtained through his letter of credit on 
M. Uoublat, the Epinal banker, bought up a quantity 
of old tapestry, plunder from neighbouring chateaux 
during the Revolution, which he served out among the 
men. During the three months that the prisoners were 
kept at Epinal, Captain Brenton, in addition, managed to 


get leave for a number of his men to do work for some of 
the townspeople, which brought in extra money for sus- 
tenance. Those who had trades, such as carpentering, or 
could do plumber's and mason's work, found, we are told, 
plenty of occupation. 

" Their conduct in general," remarks Captain Brenton, 
" was such as to procure them the respect of the in- 
habitants. Some of them remarked to me that their town 
had, in the previous war, been made a general depot for 
prisoners ; that they had had Austrians, Poles, Russians, 
and, in short, men of all nations in Europe confined there ; 
and that the consequence was that the whole district was 
infested by beggars ; but, although the British seamen 
were evidently worse off than any who had preceded them, 
there was no instance of any of them being seen begging. 
Another circumstance, very creditable to the British sailor, 
was that the inhabitants of Epinal were anxious to get the 
prisoners to do labouring work for them." 

They were, though, only employed on work for private 
individuals. Officers of the garrison, it is stated, tried 
repeatedly to induce the men to labour on the fortifi- 
cations and assist in other Government work, so as to 
set free some of the soldiers for army service elsewhere, 
but Captain Brenton set his face against the proposal, and 
the men themselves one and all refused. To their refusal, 
we are told by the Captain, " they invariably adhered, in 
spite of threats and coercion." 

In general, it would seem, the prisoners got on amicably 
with the people of the place. They were very orderly as a 
rule, as has been said, the occasional outbreaks of rowdi- 
ness on the part of a few individuals being entirely due to 
the grog-shops where spirits were always cheap. Fisti- 
cuffs, or a free fight with chairs and water-bottles, was the 
usual shape that the affrays took ; the commonest cause 
of trouble being jeering remarks and insolences by other 
customers at the cabarets, although now and then our men 
were the aggressors. The outcome was the appearance 


on the scene of a picket of soldiers from the guard to 
separate the combatants and march the leaders away to 
the lock-up for a week or ten days' detention in cells on 
black bread and soup maigre, with, after that, temporary 
deprivation of leave to walk about the streets. 

The officers were permitted to live comfortably in 
lodgings in the town. They established a regular mess 
which was held at the principal inn of Epinal. An excel- 
lent dinner and supper, including wine, was supplied, we 
are told, at the small monthly charge of fifty francs each 
officer — less than eighteen pence a day. Most of them 
were fairly content with their lot, at least at the first. All 
buoyed themselves with the prospect of being exchanged 
before long, having heard that the British Government 
had made a proposal for a general exchange of prisoners. 
Before they left Epinal, however, they knew that the 
negotiations had fallen through owing to Napoleon's 
refusal to treat on fair terms. 

Captain Brenton had his midshipmen boarded with 
people of good reputation, and he also arranged for them 
to be regularly given lessons by capable masters in order 
to improve their general education. " My first care," he 
says, " was to have the young people who had been placed 
under my particular charge put en pension with respectable 
French families, where they might have the advantage of 
regular hours, and be enabled to learn the language with 
greater facility, instead of living together where nothing 
but English would have been spoken, and much of their 
time passed in idleness. The early hours of the French 
families greatly contributed to the health and comfort of 
those entrusted to their care, whilst the very moderate 
terms paid for their board and lodging, as well as for their 
instruction, enabled them to obtain great advantages at a 
very low price. In fact, the misfortune of having fallen 
into the enemy's hand bid fair to be of the most essential 
benefit to some who had been sent to sea very little 
advanced in education." 


In the middle of November sudden orders came for all 
the British prisoners at Epinal to be moved on to the 
fortress of Phalsbourg, beyond Strasburg. It meant a 
rough and toilsome journey for several days over the hilly 
roads of the Vosges, little better in places than bridle 
tracks. The tramp at that inclement season of the year 
in the bitter weather that prevailed — cold winds with 
drenching rain and sleet — nearly killed many of the men. 

The officers this time were sent off first — starting early 
one morning together with fifty warrant and petty officers 
and older seamen, and making up in all a convoy of a 
hundred people. The sailors, who numbered between 
three and four hundred, followed a few hours later. They 
had, we are told, to submit to savage ill-treatment by the 
mounted gendarmes in charge of them, being, as before 
while on the march to Epinal, compelled to keep on walk- 
ing as fast as they could get over the ground. All who 
lagged behind were mercilessly urged forward, being beaten 
with blows with the flat of the gendarmes' swords, or 
pricked with the point. 

The accommodation by the way, too, was of the poorest, 
the most desolate possible. "At one place," describes 
Captain Brenton, " the men were shut in for the night in 
a roofless, ruined chapel ; a little straw was thrown in on 
the broken pavement, which was soon soaked by the rain. 
Each man had his three sous, but the only food pro- 
curable was bad liquor and some boiled liver, sold by the 
inhabitants at the gate ; that and their ration bread." 
After that experience Captain Brenton took action on his 
own account. He persuaded the senior officer of the 
escort to hand over to him the men's allowances of three 
sou-,, and on approaching the next place for a night's halt 
one of the gendarmes was sent forward with money to 
buy meat and other provisions, and get them cooked ready 
for the men on their arrival. The plan answered satisfac- 
torily. Throughout the journey, as we are told by the 
Captain, the sailors " behaved so well that at Sarrebourg 


they were allowed to be billeted in small parties, each 
drawing their own rations and the people where they 
lodged cooking them for them." 

They reached Phalsbourg, " shoeless and nearly naked,'' 
to find that there were no supplies in the storehouses of 
the small garrison available for their use. Fortunately 
M. Parmentier, the Mayor, was a kind-hearted Alsatian, 
and taking pity on the plight of the men allowed as many 
as room could be found for to be taken into hospital, where 
at least they got decent beds and nourishing food. " To 
supply the place of shoes," relates Captain Brenton, " a 
number of sabots, or wooden shoes, in value about three 
pence a pair, were sent in ; but it was not till stern neces- 
sity rendered it necessary that the sailors could be induced 
to put them on. One, actually with tears in his eyes, 
exclaimed with an expletive, ' Who would have thought 
that I should have come to this !' — so inseparable was the 
association between slavery and wooden shoes in his 
mind." For clothing, Captain Brenton had to purchase 
some discarded army blankets, worn out and threadbare, 
" which had been used by the Army of the Meuse." They 
were found flung aside in one of the store-sheds, as they 
had been lying by since the campaigns of the Revolution. 
The sailors used some for bedding and cut others up into 
coats and trousers, which served as a makeshift, and 
helped at least to keep out the worst of the cold. 

Funds came to hand later on ; a grant in cash of £2,000 
arrived from the British Government, having been for- 
warded through Paris. Captain Brenton had written to 
the Admiralty immediately after his capture, stating the 
distressed condition of his men, and asking for money to 
be sent him as a matter of urgency. Before, however, the 
money could be used to fit out the men properly at Phals- 
bourg, they were peremptorily hurried on elsewhere. 
Captain Brenton and his fellow-prisoners were ordered to 
proceed forthwith to Verdun, seventy miles away. Only 
the sick might remain behind. 


They left Phalsbourg in three divisions, marching on 
three successive days. Some fifty officers of the Minerve, 
together with the merchantship skippers and mates, and 
a hundred seamen, went as the first convoy. Luneville 
was the first stopping-place, reached by roundabout cross- 
roads at the end of the first day. Snow was lying deep 
on the ground, and the weather was very stormy. They 
arrived late in the evening after a terrible journey, having 
been as usual forced along as fast as they could go, to find 
that all were to be shut up for the night in the common 
prison of the town. So exhausted from the biting cold 
and exposure were the ill-clad seamen that, as Captain 
Brenton puts it, " several of them could not have survived 
the night." Providentially they were enabled to avoid the 

By a mere chance as they marched in the Captain had 
had his attention drawn to a large empty house, marked 
" To let," which was standing in the main street. The 
sight of the place gave him an idea, and he hastened 
to see the Mayor. That functionary was talked round, 
and Captain Brenton obtained leave to hire the house 
from the municipality for the night for fifty francs, 
it being arranged that the French escort of gendarmes 
should be quartered there also. The whole of the hundred 
and fifty prisoners were crammed into the building, being 
told off so many men to each room. Fuel was quickly 
bought, and big fires were lighted in every room, while 
also straw for bedding was procured, and hot soup and 
cooked meat ordered from the restaurants of the town, 
sufficient for the entire party. " The delight of the men 
at the unexpected comfort and luxury," describes Brenton, 
" was unbounded." A regular watch, he adds, was kept 
in each room all night, to see to the fires and prevent 
accidents. It proved a highly satisfactory experiment. 
Reinvigorated by a real night's rest and good food, all 
were fresh and fit in the morning to resume their march 
over the next stage of their journey. But that is not quite 


all. Their shipmates following in the rear were not 
forgotten. Before leaving the place Captain Brenton 
rented the house for the next two nights, and left suffi- 
cient money with the authorities to provide fuel for fires 
and a hearty meal on the arrival of the two convoys 

Verdun was reached on December 17, and there the 
Minerve's company were permanently divided. The officers, 
it was announced, were to remain at Verdun, and the 
sailors to proceed to Givet, their appointed prison-depot. 
A ten days' halt, however, was allowed the sailors, in con- 
sideration of the privations they had undergone on the 
march — an interval that Captain Brenton made use of to 
clothe the men properly against the wintry weather by 
means of the money from England which he had received 
just before he quitted Phalsbourg. 

The decision to keep back the officers permanently and 
send the men to live at Givet unaccompanied by a single 
superior to befriend them, was a brutal and harsh measure, 
and it had the most unfortunate consequences from the 
beginning. Deprived of the moral support and restraining 
influence of their official guardians, and callously ill-used 
by the gendarmes in charge during the six days' march, 
as before lodged at night in the gaols of the places where 
they halted, cheated of their rations till they were almost 
starving, the poor sailors cast off all thoughts of discipline. 
They let themselves go, selling their warm clothing and 
blankets as they went along to get drink, and eventually 
arriving at Givet in a state of hopeless destitution. To 
make the situation worse for the unfortunate men they 
found that the barracks at Givet were not ready for them, 
with the result that they had to pass several weeks of 
utter wretchedness penned in the dungeons of the fortress 
of Charlemont, in the neighbourhood of Givet, across the 
Meuse, kept in cold and insanitary cells several feet under 
ground. There they were lodged, as one officer describes, 
"with wet straw and the want of clothing renewed— and 


this in the last days of December in that inclement 

In such circumstances did Brenton's men make their 
acquaintance with their place of captivity. As it befell, 
fortunately for them they were able to get in touch again 
with their Captain. 

A letter was got through to Captain Brenton at Verdun 
informing him of the state of things. He promptly brought 
the complaint before the Commandant, and was able to 
obtain General Wirion's permission to visit the men at 
Givet himself. At the same time leave was further granted 
to Captain Brenton, by a special order from Paris, to 
make a round of the different depots and do what he could 
for the British prisoners there also. As it happened, a 
request had been received from the British Government 
for Captain Brenton, as the senior officer at that time in 
captivity in France, to act as a species of agent or com- 
missioner for the prisoners. The War Ministry in Paris 
did not consider it politic to refuse, on the score of 
humanity and to avoid a scandal. So Captain Brenton 
became authorized to visit the depots in an official capacity. 
In regard to his first visit to Givet he makes this remark: 
" It is but justice to the French military authorities to 
record that every facility was given for the purpose of 
carrying out the object of the journey." 

That was the case : but he had incidentally to submit 
to one minor annoyance, attributable to the petty spite of 
General Wirion. The General, as has been said, was 
Governor of Verdun during 1804. Wirion, for his part, 
while he might not refuse to assist Captain Brenton, went 
out of his way to treat him discourteously. On the plea 
— in itself an insult— that Brenton might break his parole 
and try to escape, he actually compelled him to travel 
throughout the tour in charge of a gendarme who shared 
Brenton's carriage and had his meals with him. 

The man sent, furthermore, was one of the most 
cunning rogues under Wirion's orders. 


No sooner had they started, relates Captain Brenton, 
than the gendarme began to regret that he " did not know 
a word of English." He went on to say that he was very 
anxious to learn the language, and, to show his eagerness, 
he kept asking the names of everything he saw, and 
making awkward attempts to copy Brenton's pronuncia- 
tion. After that, by way of worming himself into the 
Captain's confidence, he proceeded to remark that he 
deeply commiserated with the British prisoners ; indeed, 
he added, he really considered that those who had families 
in England were quite justified in any effort they might 
make to effect an escape. The Captain, however, had 
his wits about him. " This at once," comments Brenton, 
" put me on my guard as to the treachery I might expect 
from my companion if I were to give him the slightest 
advantage ; and I consequently avoided the subject of the 
prisoners with the greatest care." All the wiles of the 
gendarme, indeed, proved unavailing to entrap the Captain, 
in spite of repeated attempts to put him off his guard. 

A few weeks afterwards, when Captain Brenton was 
setting out from Verdun to visit another depot in his 
capacity of Commissioner of Prisoners, under escort, as 
before, by Wirion's orders, the same gendarme was again 
forced on him. A friend had been allowed to accompany 
Brenton this time, and the Captain, under the impression, 
from his previous journey, that the gendarme (who, as 
before, also sat in the carriage) did not know English, 
chatted freely on all sorts of topics. The French Govern- 
ment, the First Consul, the treatment of the prisoners, 
and even the conduct of the man himself, whose gluttony 
and egregious vanity and boasting made him a very 
prominent subject for remark and ridicule, were all very 
freely handled. " All this," remarks Captain Brenton, 
" passed before him without producing the slightest effect 
upon the muscles of his countenance." Yet the fellow 
had understood every word. On Brenton's next return 
to Verdun, he discovered, in conversation with Colonel 


Stack, one of the detenus, who has been previously men- 
tioned, an Irishman then in the British army who had 
formerly done duty with the old Irish Brigade of the 
French monarchy, that the gendarme had served under 
Colonel Stack in the Irish Brigade for five years, and 
" understood and spoke English as well as he did French." 
The task before Captain Brenton was no easy one. 
Although carried out with the nominal accord of the 
French Ministry of War, it proved in some cases almost 
impossible to perform, owing to the passive obstruction 
he encountered at Verdun when proposing to visit certain 
of the depots. One visit in particular General Wirion 
flatly interdicted — to Sarrelibre, where a new depot had 
been opened in 1804, for some of the younger seamen 
among the prisoners, who were to be kept there separately. 
" My request was refused," says Captain Brenton, adding 
this by way of one explanation. " An evident feeling of 
jealousy," he proceeds, " began at this time to manifest 
itself with regard to the influence the British officers 
exercised over their countrymen, and all communication 
was forbidden between them." Something was taking 
place at Sarrelibre it was not expedient Captain Brenton 
should see. Napoleon had turned his attention to the 
British prisoners as offering material for his Irish Legion, 
and his presence there would have checked the debauching 
process, as the influence of other officers did elsewhere. 
We have seen something of the working of the wicked 
scheme in the account that has been given of what went 
on at Givet. 

During the time that Captain Brenton was at Verdun, 
he was untiring in his efforts to ameliorate the condition 
of the prisoners wherever possible, continually on the 
move, and travelling all over North-Eastern France. By 
means of the funds that were remitted to him from 
London he was able to make advances to officers and 
midshipmen, and also to assist the merchantship masters 
and mates, to whom the French authorities only doled 


out the same pittance that ordinary seamen of the navy 
received. He visited the prisoners in hospital at Metz, 
Nancy, Luneville, Belmont, Phalsbourg, Sedan, and 
Bitche, accompanied on his rounds by an English clergy- 
man, the Rev. Launcelot Lee, Vicar of a parish near 
Oxford, one of the detenus arrested in May, 1803, while 
travelling for health, who devoted all his time in captivity 
in going about among the prisoners of war. Two other 
clergymen of the Church of England, it may be added — 
the Rev. Robert B. Wolfe and the Rev. W. Gorden, a 
young priest of five-and-twenty — worked also unsparingly 
among the prisoners. Mr. Wolfe's sphere of labour was 
mainly at Givet, where, as has been described, his heroic 
self-devotion effected what was to all intents a very 
beneficent miracle. 

He had, though, before that done good work at Verdun. 
There, before he left for Givet, Mr. Wolfe and his co- 
adjutor, Mr. Gorden, set up a school for the children of 
detenus and sailor-boys taken on men-of-war and merchant- 
men — lads under fifteen, which was the age-limit for 
English boys permitted to stay at Verdun. The two 
clergymen kept the school going in spite of strenuous 
opposition for several months, at the end of which time it 
was forcibly closed, and the other sailor-boys transferred 
in a body to Sarrelibre. General Wirion, who had eyed 
the establishment with suspicious dislike from the first, 
and had done his utmost to hamper its usefulness, shut 
the school up. Wirion put forward as his reason that it 
had broken the rules of the depot by making a " political 
demonstration," because one Sunday the boys had been 
marched through the town to church — to the disused 
Convent building of pre-Revolution days, where Divine 
service was held on Sundays for the prisoners-of-war and 
detenus. A similar fate, it may be mentioned, also at 
General Wirion's hands, befell the day-school which 
Captain Brenton himself started at Verdun to keep the 
midshipmen there out of mischief, and enable them to 




continue their nautical studies and improve their educa- 
tion, much as we have seen he had previously done at 
Epinal. In this regard, indeed, Captain Brenton, in 
addition to his other duties, did not spare himself at all 
times in his efforts to save the younger officers from ruin 
in Wirion's gambling hell. His attempts were too often 
in vain, the Captain has sorrowfully to admit. 

A second Captain of the Royal Navy joined Captain 
Brenton at Verdun towards the end of January, 1804 — 
Captain Edward Leveson-Gower of the Shannon, whose 
ship had been wrecked off Cape La Hague some six 
weeks before. The two Captains, however, did not see 
much of one another, Leveson-Gower having, for one 
thing, to spend much of his time at Valenciennes, where 
the Shannon's men were confined. He had, by the way, 
very nearly brought Captain Brenton's younger brother 
with him to Verdun — Captain Edward Pelham Brenton, 
afterwards well known as a naval historian. The younger 
Brenton's ship had been in company with the Shannon, 
and was close to her when she was wrecked. A vivid 
flash of lightning in the storm showed up the rocks close 
ahead at the last moment, just in time to enable Brenton 
to claw his ship off and escape the Shannon's fate. 

What made Captain Jahleel Brenton's captivity at 
IVerdun the harder to bear was that, as he knew, an ex- 
change for him had, during most of the time he was there, 
lactually been arranged with Napoleon by the British 
Government. Within six months of his capture a French 
Captain, Jurien by name, had been released conditionally 
on parole by the British Government, and sent over to 
France in exchange for Captain Brenton ; but, by a 
'flagrant act of bad faith, Napoleon would not let Brenton 
go. More than that, indeed, Napoleon had refused to 
permit Captain Jurien to return and give himself up in 
England, according to the usage of civilized nations at 
war, in cases where proposed exchanges had fallen through. 
Half contemptuously Napoleon, in May, 1805, as a sort 


of set-off, gave leave for Mrs. Brenton to come over from 
England and join her husband ; also sanctioning their 
taking a house at a village called Etain, a few miles from 

Shortly before his wife joined him, Captain Brenton 
had one more of his many unpleasant experiences of 
General Wirion. One of the Verdun detenus, a man of 
some social position, broke his parole and escaped to 
England. He wrote from London to the French Govern- 
ment coolly justifying his act with the plea that no detenu, 
because of the scandalous circumstances of his arrest, 
considered his parole as binding. Immediately on the 
receipt of the letter instructions were sent to General 
Wirion to issue a severe warning to the dttenus publicly. 
He carried out the instructions in his own way. He had 
Captain Brenton brought back to Verdun in close arrest, 
as well as several other wealthier prisoners of war and 
detenus who had been allowed as a special privilege to live 
outside the fortress. Thereupon Wirion had the gates of 
Verdun shut, and paraded all the prisoners, revoking the 
paroles of one and all, of every officer at the depot, and 
every detenu in the town, and directing them to be kept in 
conditions of severe restraint. Happily for those con- 
cerned, however, on a complaint reaching Paris, General 
Wirion was ordered to take the restriction off and permit 
the prisoners to live as before. 

After that, during most of the summer of 1805, Captain 
Brenton lived with his wife in a house he had now taken 
at Charni, a small village two miles from Verdun, where 
he was able to ride in and out on business every day. As 
before he had plenty to occupy himself with in seeing 
after the comfort of the prisoners at Verdun and the other 
depots. A second Admiralty grant sent him from England, 
as well as prize-money due and special remuneration for 
the duties he had undertaken, enabled him to arrange 
financial matters satisfactorily, until in the autumn he fell 
ill and had to leave the district. 


Captain Brenton, on his partial recovery, was permitted 
through the personal intervention with Napoleon of 
Admiral Decres, the Minister of Marine, to take up his 
residence further south for the sake of his health — Tours 
being appointed as his new place of detention. He was 
allowed to travel there with his wife, without any escort, 
but adhering to a fixed route. He must on no account 
visit Paris, it was laid down, proceeding instead along 
a mapped-out line by Meaux, Melun, and Fontainebleau, 
and thence along the right bank of the Loire to Tours. 

Captain Brenton left Verdun for Tours on the last day 
of October. While on his way, just after his arrival at 
Meaux on November 4, he suddenly heard the first news 
of Trafalgar. 

This is how the Captain tells the story — it forms an 
interesting episode by itself: 

" On going down to dinner my host received me with a 
broad grin and the following sentence : ' Ah, Monsieur, 
vous venez de nous rosser un peu sur mer, d'apres les 
nouvelles!' Captain: ' Cela se peut bien.' Landlord: 
'Oui, mais vous nous avez pris 21 vaisseaux de ligne !' 
Captain : ' Bah ! vous voulez dire 21 batimens marchands.' 
Landlord : ' Non, Monsieur. Vingt-et-un vaisseaux de 
ligne, bien compt^s : mais vous avez perdu Nelson ! II 
est tue !' This was the first intelligence I had received of 
the Battle of Trafalgar, which, however, had taken place 
on October 21, and this was November 4. I did not 
altogether credit my host's news, and left Meaux on the 
following morning. 

" On my arriving at Melun, about two o'clock, I met 
Lord Elgin, who was then residing there as a detenu, who 
confirmed the news of a great naval victory having been 
gained and the report that Lord Nelson had fallen. ' But,' 
added his lordship, ' I am in hourly expectation of news 
from Paris, and as you only go as far as Fontainebleau 
to-night, I will, as soon as I get my letter, ride over and 
dine with you ;' an offer that I gladly accepted. 


" Accordingly, his lordship came by five o'clock with 
every particular of this action ; at least as far as the 
French account went, which was surprisingly accurate. 
It was an account sent by merchants at Cadiz through 
Bordeaux to Paris. A very different statement was soon 
afterwards concocted for the information of the French 
nation in the columns of the Moniteur. One of M. Moet's 
best bottles was opened for Lord Elgin upon this 
occasion, and our spirits felt all the triumph of our 

At Orleans, two days afterwards, Captain Brenton met 
a party of detenus from Verdun, who, like himself, had 
been allowed to reside for a time further south : a Mr. 
Aufrere and his family. " From this gentleman," says 
the Captain, " I procured further details of the Battle of 
Trafalgar, even to a list of killed and wounded on both 
sides. The intelligence had been brought from Cadiz 
through Madrid and Bayonne, in a mercantile corres- 
pondence, but was carefully concealed from the public 
in general. It is certain that the respectable classes in 
France by no means took that lively interest in their 
national successes, or felt that mortification at their un- 
successful results in their engagements with the enemy 
which have been ascribed to them at this period ; and the 
reason is that under so ambitious a leader they were aware 
that every victory excited some new object for achievement, 
in consequence of which new conscriptions were called out, 
as well to supply recent losses as to form additional corps. 
They consoled themselves under a defeat in the hope that 
it might lead to peace." 

Captain Brenton did not return to Verdun. He was 
permitted to remain at Tours, and in all spent a few weeks 
over a year there. From time to time the British Govern- 
ment made representations to Napoleon for his release, 
but a deaf ear was turned to every protest, all the repre- 
sentations from London being ignored. Apparently 
Napoleon thought him too capable an officer to let go, 


although, as has been told, the French Captain exchanged 
against him had rejoined the Imperial naval service. 

The bitter disappointment, and the mental unrest caused 
by the rebuffs to the demands for his release from England, 
told heavily on Brenton, as the Captain himself relates. 
He became at times very gloomy over his fate, worrying 
at being so shelved and deprived of opportunities of pro- 
fessional advancement. Indeed, as he got to think, 
Napoleon's apparently fixed determination was to retain 
him in captivity as long as the war should last. It was 
all that Brenton's most intimate friend at Tours, another 
of the detenus, a medical man, Dr. (afterwards Sir Thomas) 
Grey, who had attended him at Verdun, and with his 
own wife and daughter had been allowed to go for health 
to Tours, could do to rouse him from his fits of depression. 

"One evening," says Captain Brenton, "when walking 
in the room with Dr. Grey, I said I felt a conviction that 
I was a prisoner for the remainder of the war, and that 
my naval career was at an end. He replied, ' Don't give 
way to such feelings ; how do you know but that you may 
be exchanged, have the command of a fine frigate, and 
take a prize before the year is over ?' I answered smiling, 
' If that should be the case, Doctor, I promise to give you 
the " Encyclopaedia Britannica." ' Impossible as it seemed 
to be at the moment," adds Captain Brenton, recording 
the sequel, " the Doctor did get that work, upon these 
conditions, before the year expired." 

The Brentons lived in a country house in the neighbour- 
hood of Tours, but the Captain's duty as Commissioner 
for British Prisoners in France still kept him very busy. 
Most of his work had now to be done by correspondence, 
but there was also a good deal which kept him actively 
employed on the spot. Tours was on the high road from 
Bordeaux, Passages, and Rochefort to the prisoner-depots 
in the north, and there were frequently detachments of 
sailors passing through. Among these, as Brenton men- 
tions, were the captured ships' companies of the men-of-war 


Calcutta and Ranger, and the Belle packet, who passed 
through on their way to Verdun and Arras. All, on 
reaching Tours, were confined in the common prison, 
indiscriminately as they arrived, no regard being paid to 
the rank of any of the officers. Captain Brenton was first 
informed of what was going on by the landlord of one of 
the town hotels, " with an eye to business," as the Captain 
suggests. Anyhow, he acted promptly and effectively. 
He went straight off to the General in command at Tours, 
and as the result of his angry protest the officers were at 
once released on parole, and hot meals were sent to the 
sailors and marines, provided by money privately sub- 
scribed within an hour by Captain Brenton and certain 
friends at Tours. 

From Captain Brenton also we learn this of the feelings 
of the people in that part of France in regard to Napoleon's 
victories. The Captain was at Tours, as he relates, when 
the news came of the overthrow of the Prussians at Jena, 
and witnessed the parade, according to the French practice 
under Napoleon, of the municipality " in grand costumes " 
through the streets in celebration of the victory. The 
generality of the people in that neighbourhood, remarks 
Brenton, of the class who had to provide the chair au 
canon, did not take the triumph at all jubilantly. " While 
looking on I overheard this said among the people : ' Eh ! 
Voila une autre victoire ! Cela nous donnera une autre 
conscription !' " 

Within a very few weeks of that time came, all un- 
expectedly, the fulfilment of the first part of Dr. Grey's 
prophecy. At the moment Captain Brenton was again in 
one of his gloomy moods. It was just after Fox's nego- 
tiations with France for peace had finally broken down. 
In his anger at the refusal of the British Government to 
give way to his demands, Napoleon had abruptly stopped 
all intercourse with England : " All communications with 
England, even the transfer of bills, was positively for- 
forbidden." More than that, adds Captain Brenton, " from 


Napoleon's increased ill-humour towards the English 
I momentarily expected to lose my parole." He would, 
in that event, be sent back to Verdun in custody, and 
undergo there rigorous confinement at the pleasure of his 
tyrannical gaoler, General Wirion. 

But, in the midst of the prevailing gloom, the sky 
suddenly cleared for Captain Brenton. All in a moment, 
as it were, the utterly unexpected happened. " I was 
under the impression of those feelings," as the Captain 
tells the story, " when one morning, on returning from a 
walk, I found my wife in tears. A gendarme, I was told, 
had come, requiring my immediate attendance on the 
General. The visit of a gendarme rarely boded anything 
favourable to a prisoner. I had, of course, to go, but 
much perturbed in mind. I hastened to the General, 
expecting some unpleasant communication, but to my 
great surprise and joy was received with great cordiality 
and these unexpected words : ' Monsieur, vous n'etes plus 
prisonnier. ... Je vous en felicite !' " Says Captain 
Brenton : " / ran home /" 

A genuine exchange had been granted to him, it soon 
turned out, for one of the French Captains taken at 
Trafalgar — Infernet, Massena's nephew. Marshal Mass^na 
had pestered Napoleon into procuring Infernet's exchange, 
and the British Government, on their side, had insisted 
on having Captain Brenton back and nobody else. 

Thanks to the good offices of the Perregaux, the bankers 
in Paris, read}- money for travelling expenses was forth- 
coming. " They had heard of his release," wrote the 
bankers, " and to prevent the possibility of delay or ' acci- 
dent,' should his Imperial Majesty change his mind, sent 
an advance of £100 for the expenses of the journey to 
England, which Captain Brenton might pay at his con- 
venience after his arrival home." The captain and his 
wife started forthwith for Morlaix, the appointed port of 
departure, taking with them Doctor and Mrs. Grey and 
their family, whose release Captain Brenton had been 


able to arrange for with the Minister of Marine, Admiral 
D6cres. They all set sail on December 27 in a French 
brig, which Captain Brenton hired at sixty louis d'or for 
the passage. 

Even at the last moment though, as it would appear, 
an attempt was made to hold Captain Brenton back. The 
excuse of the finding of some private papers which 
Brenton had dropped was used to try and again place 
him in arrest. He was to wait until their contents had 
been explained to the satisfaction of Napoleon. For- 
tunately, however, the measures were taken just too late. 
The messenger, sent express to prevent Brenton from 
embarking, galloped up to the Prefecture at Morlaix, to 
learn that the brig he was on board was under sail and 
beyond cannon-shot of the harbour batteries. 

Captain Brenton set foot again on his native soil two 
days later. 

He was not — it may be added to conclude the narrative 
— the first of the Minerve's people to reach England and 
regain freedom. Some of the crew had made their escape 
before that, as also Brenton was aware. The fact also 
proved of use to him. When warned to attend the court- 
martial appointed to inquire into the loss of the Minerve, 
before which tribunal, in the ordinary course, Captain 
Brenton had to go immediately after reporting his arrival 
to the Admiralty, there being no commissioned officers of 
the ship available to give evidence as witnesses, he had 
inquiries made as to the whereabouts of the escaped sea- 
men among all the ships at the ports, with the result that 
half a dozen of his men came forward who had escaped 
from Givet — two boatswain's mates and four seamen and 
marines. Their testimony was sufficient at the trial to 
win for Captain Brenton a highly honourable acquittal as 
having done his duty to the utmost of his power. 


THE most notable of Napoleon's military prisoners at 
Verdun was a British Major-General, Lord Blayney, 
who was captured in the south of Spain in the autumn 
of 1810, during the Peninsular War, when in command 
of an expedition from Gibraltar operating in rear of the 
French Army then besieging Cadiz. 

Lord Blayney was one of the three British Generals 
taken by Napoleon during the war, and was also among 
the prisoners at Verdun. The other two British Generals 
who fell into the hands of the French were Lord John 
Murray, and Sir Edward Paget, one of Wellington's most 
capable divisional Generals, who was captured during 
the retreat from Burgos. General Paget had ridden 
to the rear to hurry up a column which was lagging 
behind, when, in passing through a wood, a party of 
French chasseurs galloped up and carried him off, 
although British troops were marching within a quarter 
of a mile on either side. He was riding by himself 
and at first sight apparently mistook the French horse- 
men for British dragoons, whose uniform was somewhat 
similar, in consequence allowing them to approach too 

He was an Irish peer — Andrew Thomas, Baron Blay- 
ney of Blayney Castle, Co. Monaghan, a member of 
an ancient family, originally from Wales, which had been 
settled in Ireland ever since Queen Elizabeth's time — 
and an officer of some distinction for the varied service 
he had seen in many parts of the world. Beginning his 

i 97 


career in the Flanders campaign under the Duke of 
York, he had been actively employed in Ireland at the 
time of the Rebellion of '98, and then had his part at the 
siege and capture of Malta. He had seen service next 
with Suwarroffs Russian Army in Switzerland ; with 
Abercrombie in Egypt ; and in the West Indies at the 
taking of several of the islands from the French ; as well 
as at the taking of Cape Colony from the Dutch ; and 
finally under General Whitelocke in the disastrous cam- 
paign of Buenos Ayres in 1806. As a young Captain also 
Lord Blayney had had a hand in raising the 89th Regi- 
ment for the British Army, and had served with it as 
a major on various expeditions. 

The year 1810 found Lord Blayney a Major-General in 
the Gibraltar Garrison, to which he had been attached, 
for one thing because of his linguistic attainments in 
Spanish as well as French. His restless energy, however, 
could not be restrained within the limits of the Rock, 
and he badgered the then Governor, General Campbell, 
into sending him off at the head of some fifteen hundred 
men to raid Marshal Soult's line of communications in 
Andalusia and assist the Spanish peasantry round Malaga 
in their guerilla warfare with the French troops covering 
the siege of Cadiz. Only three hundred of the troops 
in the expedition were British, three companies of Lord 
Blayney's old regiment, the 89th. The bulk of the force 
was comprised of a corps of Spanish regulars, eight 
hundred strong, and between four and five hundred 
deserters from Soult's army, mostly Germans, Poles, and 
Italians, a motley horde, who were formed into a regiment 
for the expedition. 

They sailed in transports, escorted by two British men 
of war, and were landed on the coast between Gibraltar 
and Malaga, to meet disaster in their first fight. Getting 
timely information from his spies of what was going on 
in that quarter, Soult detached General Sebastiani with a 
division of five thousand troops to intercept Lord Blay- 


ney. The unfortunate expedition was surprised and 
attacked in force, and in the result practically captured 
en bloc, the General together with his men ; owing mainly 
to the bad behaviour of Blayney's regiment of deserters. 
These ran off at the opening of the fight, whereupon 
the Spanish regulars gave way. General Blayney and 
the three companies of the 89th were surrounded and 
charged by an overpowering body of French troops, and 
after a desperate resistance, hand to hand, the British 
detachment was compelled to call for quarter. General 
Blayney had his horse shot under him, got separated 
from the rest of the British and had a fierce tussle for 
his life, mobbed in the middle of a throng of men of 
Napoleon's 4th Polish Infantry. 

" A ferocious banditti," is what Blayney calls his 
assailants, " who loaded me with every vile epithet, but 
in whose outrageous violence, I, in great measure, found 
my personal safety, for they crowded so thick on me that 
they had not room to give force to their blows. They 
tore my clothes, rilled my pockets, and attempted to 
pull off my epaulettes ; and the resistance I made to this 
last indignity procured me several blows from the butt 
ends of their muskets that covered me with contusions. 
I was, indeed, probably indebted for my life to a Lieu- 
tenant Pelet of the Polish Regiment, who opportunely 
came up on horseback : ho was the only French officer 
with the corps, and his humane and gentlemanly conduct 
did credit to his country." 

Lord Blayney after that had to undergo some hours of 
captivity and ill-treatment at the hands of the Polish 
regimental Colonel, until, on the following day, General 
Sebastiani himself sent for him. Thenceforward for 
some time everything was changed. A British General 
was a big prize, and Sebastiani was a courteous and 
considerate officer as well as a generous foe. He received 
Lord Blayney in the most friendly manner, recommended 
him to the good offices of his staff, and gave him his 


parole as a prisoner at large, until arrangements should be 
made for his transportation to France with the other 
British prisoners taken. 

"After the first salutation," describes Lord Blayney, 
" he inquired what had become of my sword, and on my 
answering that I supposed that some of the other officers 
or soldiers had it in their possession, General Milhaw 
(Milhaud) instantly took off his own and presented it to 
me, saying : ' Monsieur le General, here is one which has 
been employed in all the campaigns against the Austrians, 
Russians, and Prussians. It is now much at your 
service.' This speech, though tinctured with the vanity 
natural to a Frenchman, was applauded by the bravos of 
both officers and soldiers who were within hearing. I 
accepted the sword, and, indeed, felt somewhat gratified 
at being paid such a public compliment by an enemy." 

Nothing, indeed, could exceed the polite attentions of 
General Sebastiani and his staff to their principal prisoner. 
The British General dined with the French officers at 
Malaga, and his baggage was sent for under a flag of truce 
from the man-of-war on board which Lord Blayney had 
come round from Gibraltar. The frigate Topaze, with a 
seventy-four, the Rodney, had escorted the expedition. 
Blayney's only grievance was that he had to appear in 
public at General Sebastiani's levee before the chief civil 
officials of Malaga, French and Spanish, and had to attend 
a public dinner given by the French staff officers to 
Sebastiani in honour of his success. He was otherwise 
treated with great consideration, and was permitted to go 
on to Granada, on the first stage of his long journey to 
France, ahead of the other prisoners by himself, escorted 
by one of Sebastiani's aides-de-camp and some Polish 
Lancers. At Granada Lord Blayney was treated more 
as a guest by the French officers of the garrison than 
as a prisoner, and on Sebastiani's arrival there a day or 
two later, he was again invited to dine with the General, 
concluding a festive evening with a visit to the theatre in 


company with Sebastiani and his staff. On another day 
he rode out to visit the Alhambra, Sebastiani and his 
officers accompanying him ; the trip, indeed, having been 
specially planned in consequence of Blayney having said at 
dinner on the previous day that he much wanted to see 
the Alhambra. They wound up the afternoon by a picnic. 

For some reason the other British officers, who had 
been made prisoners at the same time as General Blayney, 
were treated quite differently. Sebastiani had granted 
them parole, but an order from Marshal Soult deprived 
them of the privilege, and they were kept close prisoners 
with the men of the 89th, under an armed guard in the 
camp. General Blayney, on the other hand, was allowed 
to go about as he pleased. He attended, as he relates, 
several social gatherings at Granada, among others that 
he mentions, the Duchess of Goa's evening parties, at 
which cards were played for high stakes; both General 
Sebastiani and Lord Blayney taking part among the 
players. He breakfasted and dined every day, he tells us, 
with Sebastiani and his staff. 

While he was at Malaga, as Blayney relates, the Spanish 
patriot army of General Blake was defeated in the neigh- 
bourhood. The British General witnessed the triumphal 
parade of the prisoners through the city, and was invited 
to the ball given to celebrate the event, and taken to see 
the fireworks and illuminations. 

At breakfast with Sebastiani on the following morning 
he witnessed another side of the French General's 
character. The incident is thus recorded : " An officer 
entered with a verbal report of some deserters being 
retaken. ' Ou'on les pend tout de suite,' replied the 
General, without altering a feature or saying another 
word on the subject. The officer bowed and retired." 

Lord Blayney left Granada earl)- in November, riding 
off on a horse presented to him as a gift by Sebastiani, 
who also supplied him with mules to carry his baggage, 
and gave him introductions to French officers elsewhere, 


directing every attention to be paid him. Blayney 
describes his parting from the French staff officers as 
most friendly : " they also presented me with letters for 
their relatives in France, asking them to show me every 
hospitality." So he started off on his three months' 
journey to France, escorted by twelve dragoons and two 
staff officers, and going ahead, by a few hours, of the 
convoy of British prisoners. 

It seems to have been, at any rate during the first part 
of the journey, almost a pleasure trip for the British 
General, he being allowed to visit the cathedrals in the 
cities he passed through and any places of interest he 
wanted to see. In one town, where the prisoners' convoy 
halted for two days, he was invited to join the French 
General in command of the garrison and his staff on a 
sporting excursion, coursing hares with a pack of a dozen 
greyhounds. The party, we are told, to avoid interference 
from Spanish guerillas, was " escorted by ioo Dragoons, 
some of whom rode ahead as beaters." 

At Andujar in Andalusia he came across a party of 
English prisoners— marines and sailors — who had been 
taken during the siege operations at Cadiz, along the coast 
in the neighbourhood. One of them, a midshipman, com- 
plained bitterly of the ill-treatment they had been sub- 
jected to on the way, but Blayney, though he spoke up for 
them to the French authorities, was unable apparently to 
do anything to alleviate their position. 

At Manzanares in La Mancha he witnessed a bull-fight, 
he relates, and attended a ball and dined with the French 
General. At Toledo he was received with similar courtesy 
by the French authorities, and allowed, as usual, to go 
about freely and see the sights of the city and visit the 

At Toledo, indeed, where he arrived on November 29, 
Lord Blayney met with another little experience. It was 
at a dinner party given by the French General in command 
of the garrison specially in his honour, to which the prin- 

A ■''! 


cipal people of the place were invited, expressly, as General 
Blayney relates, to meet him. 

" The moment we sat down the General informed me 
that he had purposely provided a treat of roast beef and 
plum-pudding, both of which he assured me were dressed 
'a I'Anglaise.' Carving an immense slice, which proved 
to be scarcely warmed, he exclaimed triumphantly, ' Du 
moins je crois que cela doit £tre a votre gout !' This 
exclamation drew on me the eyes of the whole company, 
who seemingly expected, with anxious curiosity, to see me 
devour the raw and tough carrion. As I could not, with 
politeness, send it away untouched, I forced myself to 
swallow a few mouthfuls, which a glass of brandy assisted 
me to keep down. The plum-pudding was then served 
up, and could only be equalled in execrableness by the 
beef, being a solid lump of half-boiled dough that would 
have required the power of an ostrich to digest. Added 
to these little desagremens, the General was most extremely 
civil, particularly with his hands, which were scarce a 
moment off my shoulders. He also wearied me with a 
history of his achievements." 

Following on the roast-beef and plum-pudding came a 
soiree in the drawing-room of the Commander's residence. 

" After dinner, several visitors arriving, he proposed 
retiring upstairs, where there were prepared a good fire, 
plenty of punch and cards. After a sober rubber at whist, 
the punch beginning to mount, trente et quarante was intro- 
duced, but as my purse was rather low I told the General 
I could not play deep, whereupon he produced a heap of 
gold and begged me to help myself. At first I had a run 
of extreme bad luck, and became considerably in debt, 
but fortune changing, I at last rose a winner to the amount 
of £400." 

All the time the unfortunate British officers and soldiers 
taken prisoners with General Blayney were being kept 
closely guarded in Toledo, experiencing hardships which 
the indulgence shown to their Commander made it the 


harder to bear. Indeed, one rather wonders that the 
General did not give back his own parole, and elect to 
share the sufferings of his fellow-countrymen in distress. 
At any rate, he did not do so, although he appears to have 
made protests on their behalf to the authorities.* 

From Toledo he proceeded direct to Madrid, for the 
final stage of the journey, keeping in company with the 
column of prisoners. All were heavily escorted by cavalry 
and a force of infantry, belonging to Napoleon's foreign 
troops, on whom fell, as has been said, most of the routine 
drudgery of war service : two battalions of the Hesse 
Darmstadt regiment — which Wellington made an example 
of at Badajoz — and one of the Spanish regiments in Napo- 
leon's pay. Speaking of what he saw on the march, 
General Blayney remarks : " It would be difficult to say 
which, the Spaniards or the Germans, were more brutal 
in their conduct to the prisoners." Why did not Lord 
Blayney let go his parole privileges when he saw that going 
on, and throw in his lot with them, then and there ? 

He also mentions this incident as having taken place 
while he was riding alongside the prisoners ; describing 
how one of the men of the escort belonging to the Spanish 
regiment, spoke to him : " The man proved to be a deserter 
from the 87th. He admitted that he had suffered so much 
since his desertion that he would willingly undergo any 
punishment short of death to be once more restored to 
his country. I listened to him with the more satisfac- 
tion," adds Lord Blayney, " as he was overheard by some 
of our soldiers who had shown symptoms of an intention 
of entering the French service." 

Lord Blayney's French host at Toledo, the Commandant 
of the garrison, General Lavoisier, accompanied the convoy 
to Madrid — much to Blayney's personal inconvenience, for 
he had instinctively taken a strong dislike to the General, 
who kept pestering him with his attentions, and repeatedly 
asked the British General to consider himself as his guest. 
* Sec Lieutenant James's narrative, p. 171. 


The French General, as Lord Blayney relates, during 
the journey incidentally provided the British prisoners 
with a display on his own account, which caused every- 
body considerable amusement: 

" As we were approaching Madrid the General mounted 
his charger and put on his full uniform, which was superb 
in the extreme, and consequently calculated to inspire 
respect in the soldiery, although his hat, edged with 
feathers, certainly too much resembled that of a drum- 
major. The General, being excessively vain both of his 
horse and horsemanship, in order to show them off, set 
out at a full gallop in the deepest part of the road. Though 
on a miserable Spanish hack, I was determined to show off 
too, and getting my beast into a prancing canter I soon 
passed the General, who, putting spurs to his horse at the 
same time that he slacked the reins, and the animal being 
knee-deep in mud, came down as might be expected, and 
rolled over his rider. 

" The Aides-de-camp and some Chasseurs immediately 
ran to his assistance, but the miserable pickle he was in, 
and his ludicrous grimaces, almost discomposed their 
gravity, and they could scarcely refrain from laughing 
aloud at the bedaubed face and uniform of their General. 
Such is the force of natural pride, even in trifles, that 
while I pitied the General's plight I congratulated myself 
on having proved my superior horsemanship for the honour 
of Old England ; and my satisfaction was increased by 
reflecting that had the same accident happened to me the 
whole detachment would have triumphed both at the 
expense of my country and myself. A short halt was the 
consequence of the General's mishap, and when he was 
rubbed down and tolerably clean we proceeded towards 

The irrepressible Levoisier, however, could not, appa- 
tently, refrain from showing off. " We entered Madrid 
riding through a great number of streets at full gallop over 
a slippery pavement, at the risk of breaking our necks or 


being trampled to death if our horses came down on us, 
merely to gratify the absurd vanity of the French General 
who wished to create astonishment." 

Lord Blayney was courteously received on presenting 
his letter of introduction from Sebastiani to General 
Beliard, the Governor of Madrid, but, to his surprise, he 
was informed at the close of the interview that by King 
Joseph's express order he was to be quartered as a close 
prisoner in the Retiro, a former Royal palace of the 
Spanish Kings which the French had converted into a 
military prison. Expostulation was useless. He had to 
submit, and was conducted to the Retiro to pass " a most 
uncomfortable night there on a hard bed swarming with 

Further expostulations next morning with the Governor 
of the Retiro had no effect. He was treated discourteously, 
and to add to the indignities offered him, was turned back 
at the gateway by the sentry when going out by invitation 
to breakfast with General Beliard. In the end permission 
was given him to pass out, but he had to undergo the 
humiliation of being " accompanied like a prisoner by the 
Adjudant de Place." 

At Beliard's quarters, he had another unpleasant ex- 
perience. In the ante-room on his arrival he found 
awaiting him an ex-British officer, who had deserted in 
the field, " a traitor Irishman named Walsh, formerly 
of the 9th Foot," now on Beliard's staff as an A.D.C. 
" Walsh," says Lord Blayney, " tried to be excessively 
civil," but the British General held back. " I met his 
advances with coolness and contempt." 

In due course, then, General Beliard was announced 
and entered, " his little round figure covered in lace and 
embroidery." Lord Blayney forthwith repeated his pro- 
tests as to his accommodation and treatment of the 
morning, but the only reply was that he would doubtless 
not stay long in the Retiro, only indeed until a billet de 
logement could be procured for him in better quarters. 


After breakfast his former liberty to go where he liked 
was restored, and Lord Blayney was allowed to wander at 
large in Madrid for the day, visiting the principal churches 
and sights of the city, and going to the theatre. While 
looking about him, he again met his bete noir of the march 
from Toledo, General Lavoisier, " who invited me to 
dinner and recapitulated his bill of fare, which was 
sumptuous." As a matter of policy Blayney accepted the 
invitation, and on the evening fixed went to the General's 
quarters — to find that Lavoisier had forgotten all about 
his guest, and had gone off calmly to dine out with some- 
body else ! 

General Blayney, during his first week, did his best, he 
tells us, by personal intervention, to procure better treat- 
ment for his fellow-prisoners ; and in particular for some 
other British captives whom he had found shut up in the 
Retiro behind the bars of a cramped and dirty dungeon. 
" I found," he says, " several English and Maltese sailors 
confined with a considerable number of Germans in a 
small dungeon where the air could not be renewed, and 
that the only provisions they received were black bread 
and water." But his efforts to help them met with no 
success. He was unable to get permission " even for the 
prisoners to go into fresh air under guard once a day." 

Still, though, Lord Blayney persevered, and at the last 
he succeeded ; the prisoners having become riotous in 
consequence of the short supply of food. According to 
the regulations half a pound of meat daily for each man 
had been contracted for, but none at all ever reached the 
prisoners. On making that discovery, Lord Blayney had 
an angry interview with the Adjudant de Place, the official 
directly involved. The interchange of indignant words 
became so hot that at one point the Frenchman lost his 
temper and laid his hand on his sword. The Adjutant 
was finally brought to his senses by a frank threat from 
Lord Blayney to report what he had learned personally to 
General Beliard in a form that would make the affair 


a public scandal. After that the prisoners got at least 
their proper ration of meat. 

The British General was able also, by talking about the 
miserable condition of the prisoners at the petits soupers 
and social gatherings which he was allowed to attend, 
to interest some of the Spanish society ladies at Madrid, 
and some of them in consequence took to visiting the 
prisoners and bringing them food and clothing, though 
they had difficulties occasionally with the guards. Lord 
Blayney succeeded further in getting sufficient warm 
clothing provided for all the British Retiro prisoners, 
drawing bills for the expense on the British Government 
at his own personal initiative. For the British officers 
made prisoners with him, who had also now been restored 
their parole, he succeeded in obtaining certain indulgences. 
One of these was, as we are told, leave to dine at the 
Fonda St. Martin, the fashionable restaurant of Madrid, 
where General Blayney himself, whenever he could, dined 
in public with them, the gathering making a sort of 
temporary mess. A number of French officers of the 
garrison, we are also told, sometimes joined the party at 
dinner and made themselves very friendly, " all getting on 
very pleasantly together." 

Among other diversions during his stay in Madrid, Lord 
Blayney attended a Masonic Lodge of French officers. A 
large number, if not the majority, of Napoleon's officers 
were Masons ; and it had indeed been, as it would appear, 
Lord Blayney's membership of the Craft that at the outset 
induced General Sebastiani and his entourage to show him 
such friendliness and hospitality. 

" One evening," relates Lord Blayney, " I received a 
visit from an officer of the 26th Chasseurs a Cheval to 
request my company at a Masonic meeting. The forms 
of admission were very serious, but I went through them 
sufficiently well and received a warm welcome from the 
brethren, particularly from Colonel Vial, commanding the 
26th Chasseurs, who was Master of the Lodge, and who 


invited me to dinner and supper next day. At supper, 
" when the punch began to mount," Lord Blayney goes 
on, " each played some ridiculous trick to divert the 
company: one making hideous grimaces; another taking 
off a priest in his robes by means of a towel on his fingers ; 
a third shaped mice out of parings of apple. Indeed," 
adds the General rather unkindly, " I must do the French 
the justice to acknowledge that they far excel us in the art 
of making fools of themselves pour passer le iemps" 

He had still to return and sleep every night in the 
Retiro, though in rather better quarters than at first, until 
at last he was appointed lodgings in the city, in the house 
of a Monsieur Guillet, a French civil official of King 
Joseph's suite who was employed as the Royal Art Agent, 
his work being to go round and spy among the galleries of 
Spain and private collections for choice pictures which the 
Royal plunderer might lay hands on. Lord Blayney dis- 
liked the man from the first, suspecting that Guillet was 
also acting as a spy on himself, but he could do nothing in 
the matter ; and being something of an art connoisseur on 
his own account, he utilized Guillet's offered services as a 
cicerone over the chief of the picture galleries of the Spanish 
capital. In the end, though, he could tolerate the French- 
man's persistent intrusions no longer, and quitting Monsieur 
Guillet, he sought and obtained leave to return to his 
former quarters in the Retiro. 

As far as he was personally concerned, says General 
Blayney, the French officers of the French garrison were 
unremitting in their attentions to him. A party of them 
took him one da}- over the Royal Palace on a private visit 
to examine the numerous treasures of statuary and painting 
that King Joseph kept there. On another day he was 
taken out on horseback to witness a cavalry review. In 
the evenings some of the French officers would call for 
him and take him to billiard matches or concerts, or 
to military dinner parties at which he figured as the 
principal guest, these usually winding up with " punches 


of honour," at which there was music and cards. Lord 
Blayney got on very well at cards, he tells us, his skill, or luck, 
enabling him to leave off constantly a substantial winner. 
One day his Masonic friend, Colonel Vial of the 26th 
Chasseurs, with the other officers of the regiment, took 
Lord Blayney out for several hours coursing in the neigh- 
bourhood. They went out for some miles beyond Madrid 
with eight couple of greyhounds, the party being escorted 
by half a hundred Chasseurs and Polish Lancers, owing 
to a report that a dangerous Spanish guerilla band had 
been raiding in the neighbourhood. " I rode " on the 
occasion, records General Blayney, " an English mare 
captured at Talavera." 

Another day's outing with the hospitable Colonel Vial 
and his officers, however, had an unpleasant sequel for the 
British General. It led to an abrupt curtailment of Lord 
Blayney's privileges on parole at Madrid. They all had 
an enjoyable afternoon's ride, and dined al fresco in a 
village, after which, amid the convivialities, they apparently 
forgot about the time. At any rate, they got back to 
Madrid to find the city gates shut for the night, and had 
to sleep in another village near by. On entering Madrid 
next morning Lord Blayney found General Beliard in a 
fever about him, a report having got about during the 
night that the British General had made his escape aided 
by the guerillas. Suspicious and angry, Belinrd refused 
to accept Lord Blayney's explanation, although cor- 
roborated by Colonel Vial, and sent him off under escort 
to the Retiro, to remain there under arrest until further 
orders. At the same time, it being rumoured that a plot 
to escape was on foot, the other British officers on parole 
at Madrid with Lord Blayney were summarily deprived 
of their privileges of going about the streets of the city 
independently at will. Henceforward they were only to 
be allowed out of the Retiro, it was ordered, for exercise 
during two hours daily, and then to go only in parties, with 
an officer of the Retiro garrison in charge of each party. 


Lord Blayney himself, although confined within the 
precincts of the Retiro, was treated as being in open 
arrest, and allowed to have friends in to see him every 
afternoon. Among those who came to visit him, he tells 
us, were several of the Spanish society ladies whose 
acquaintance he had made, and who, "to relieve the 
irksomeness of the situation, sang and played and gave 
concerts." A talented and versatile Irishman, Lord 
Blayney, by way of further keeping ennui at bay, occupied 
himself between whiles by giving cookery lessons to the 
British officers, his fellow-prisoners. He was a good cook, 
as he relates, having acquired the art during his previous 
campaigns when obliged to shift for himself. Indeed, too, 
he says, he had usually cooked his own dinner when on 
march from Granada to Madrid. 

By way of further occupation, Lord Blayney at the 
same time, for the special benefit of his friends, the officers 
of Colonel Vial's Chasseurs, started a series of lectures on 
the treatment of sick horses in the field. The fame of 
these lectures, after the delivery of the first two or three, 
spread, Blayney records, all over Madrid, and brought 
into the Retiro a crowd of French cavalry officers eager 
to hear them. He was a clever linguist, speaking, as he 
tells us, both French and Spanish fluently. An additional 
result of his lectures, relates Lord Blayney, was that sick 
horses from several regiments in the garrison were sent to 
him for treatment almost every day. 

The authorities, however, before long, began to look 
askance at General Blayney's activities. Some sinister 
motive must be at the back of them, they suspected. 
General Beliard, who cordially disliked and distrusted the 
British General, struck this time harder than before. He 
abruptly stopped the lectures and the cookery classes, and 
ordered Lord Blayney to be kept under close arrest. He 
placed him, further, in the personal custody of " a brutal 
Lieutenant of the 34th Infantry," who was directed to 
keep the British General under constant surveillance. 


" Two sentries," says Lord Blayney, " were placed at the 
door of my apartment, and they also attended me in the 
very short space allowed me for exercise." 

The only indulgence permitted him was on Christmas 
Day, when Lord Blayney was allowed to dine in one of 
the halls of the Retiro with the other British officers, his 
fellow-prisoners. " They were very convivial," the General 
records, until nine o'clock, when Lord Blayney's custodian, 
the Lieutenant of the 34th, "suddenly put in an appearance 
with the two gendarmes, and curtly ordered us all off to 
our beds." Some heated language passed, we are told, 
between the General and the officer, until the Lieutenant 
"in the end sulkily withdrew;" but the joviality of the 
gathering was at an end for the night. 

Four days afterwards, on December 29, Lord Blayney 
and the British prisoners in the Retiro were marched out 
at short notice, and started off, heavily escorted, on their 
way to France. 

It was a trying experience for all, " the frost very severe, 
and the cold greater than I ever felt in England." 

Though nominally restored his parole, Lord Blayney, 
by General Beliard's orders, had to keep with the convoy 
of prisoners ; the reason officially given being that an 
attempt at his release was believed to be contemplated by 
a guerilla chief in the neighbourhood. The French, Lord 
Blayney remarks, were " terribly nervous " about the 
guerillas during the first marches. " When we came to 
any difficult pass nothing but ' brigands' was in the mouths 
of the French officers, whose apprehensions were plainly 
visible in their looks and conversation ; and yet these 
were the braggadocios who, according to their own 
accounts, had encountered hosts." 

No guerillas, however, seemed to be on the prowl in the 
neighbourhood of Madrid, and after the first day or two 
of the march the closeness of the guard over Lord Blayney 
was relaxed. 

On the convoy reaching Segovia, he and the British 


officers were restored to the full privileges of their parole. 
General Blayney, on his arrival, paid a complimentary 
call on the French Commandant of the garrison, whom he 
found " very courteous and agreeable," and who allowed 
him to amuse himself, as before, in visiting the Alcazar 
and the cathedral, and seeing the other sights of the 
place. He was billeted for the night in a " fine house," 
with the other British officers in good quarters next door. 
Lord Blayney, though, made one unpleasant discovery at 
Segovia. In going over the castle he came upon an 
English lad, apparently a drummer-boy, closely confined 
in a stone-paved cell, in chains, and without a fire, despite 
the bitter cold of the weather. The poor young fellow, 
a prisoner taken in action, was undergoing that cruel 
punishment, it was elicited, for having refused to let him- 
self be seduced into joining the Irish Legion then in 
Spain. Apparently Lord Blayney found himself unable 
to do anything for the unfortunate youth before the 
convoy of prisoners resumed its march next day. At any 
rate, the General says no more about him. 

On the way to Valladolid, during the second stage of 
the journey, Lord Blayney was again allowed to go ahead 
of the other prisoners by himself, accompanied by his 
English soldier attendant, with the General's baggage, 
and good quarters were provided him at every halt, 
together with the customary freedom to visit places of 
interest along the route — old castles, churches, and 
historic remains. 

While riding one day about half a mile from the convoy 
and off the road, he was, he relates, the spectator of a 
sharp fight between the French escort of the convoy and 
a band of guerillas, in which the Spaniards were beaten 
off with considerable loss to the French. " Many of the 
English prisoners," remarks Lord Blayney, "being loosely 
guarded, managed to escape." Incidentally, he witnessed 
many cases, as he records, of the brutal maltreatment of 
the Spanish peasantry by the French. On the other 


hand, he came across in more than one place near the 
road " the bodies of French soldiers who had been 
gibbeted by the peasants." 

At Valladolid, Lord Blayney was billeted on one of the 
leading Spanish merchants of the city, who treated him 
with marked consideration, as did, he records, the French 
General in command of the garrison, the celebrated 
Kellerman, son of the hero of Marengo, Napoleon's 
brilliant General of Cuirassiers. Kellerman's reception 
of him, describes Lord Blayney, " was most kindly and 

At Burgos — just outside which fortress he passed " the 
bodies of eighteen unfortunate Spanish peasants hanging 
from trees by the highway as a warning to the neighbour- 
hood " — he made the acquaintance of some of the officers 
of the Imperial Guard who were stationed there. At 
Vittoria he saw more of them, and also the Cavalry of 
the Guard. Caffarelli, their commander, paid Lord 
Blayney, as he relates, " great attention and politeness," 
and took him to see a full-dress parade of the Chasseurs 
of the Guard, Napoleon's favourite corps, whose uniform 
the Emperor always wore in camp. The smartness of 
their drill and general turn-out greatly impressed General 
Blayney, as he records. 

The final stage of his journey through Spain took Lord 
Blayney through the Pyrenees to the French frontier at 
St. Jean de Luz. There he was ordered to separate from 
the convoy of prisoners and make his way through France 
to Verdun independently. 

Lord Blayney was to meet with further instances of the 
enemy's courtesy on his journey through France; together 
with, on occasion, other experiences to remind him that 
he was a prisoner of war. 

At St. Jean de Luz he called as usual on the Com- 
mandant of the garrison, a General Sols, by whom he was 
received " with the politeness of the old French school." 
So well apparently did he impress General Sols that the 


General, in the course of the interview, showed Lord 
Blayney a letter about him which Sols had received from 
General Beliard at Madrid, " recommending a strict sur- 
veillance to be kept over me as a dangerous character." 
General Sols remarked, however, that he proposed to pay 
no attention to the letter, in consequence of the favourable 
report he had received from the officers of the convoy 
escort. *~ 

Next, Lord Blayney received an intimation that Marshal 
Bessieres, at Bayonne, who commanded the army corps 
stationed on the Spanish frontier, would like to see him. 
Blayney proceeded forthwith to Bayonne, and called upon 
the Marshal. Bessieres, he relates, received him " in a 
stiff and formal manner at first," but he soon altered his 
tone and " became gentleman-like." A certain Captain 
A., explained the Marshal, who had been made prisoner 
with Lord Blayney, and was on parole, had made his 
escape during the journey through Northern Spain. In 
consequence, said the Marshal, he was inclined to treat 
Lord Blayney rigorously. The two, however, as they 
talked, drifted into familiarity, and at the end the inter- 
view was closed by Marshal Bessieres, in the most affable 
manner, asking Lord Blayney to dinner next day. The 
invitation was of course accepted, and Blayney, as he 
relates, went to the dinner " in full uniform." Apparently 
he quite won over Marshal Bessieres, who not only gave 
him an excellent dinner, but " had a case of Madeira 
specially opened for me." At the close of the evening 
Bessieres asked Lord Blayney to come and see him again 
before leaving Bayonne. He would like, said the genial 
Frenchman, to give him letters of introduction to friends 
at Bordeaux, " which would ensure at least a good dinner 
and good wine." Lord Blayney called again in due course, 
whereupon the Marshal, in addition to giving him the 
letters of introduction promised, tendered him a hundred 
louis d'or as a personal loan, in case he should run short 
of money on his journey. Bessieres offered him a further 


sum, indeed, should he think he might want it. Lord 
Blayney accepted the original loan, but declined the 
second; and, as he puts it, "we parted the best of 

As in Spain, the General was permitted to go about 
Bayonne much as he pleased ; even to go on board and 
inspect several American schooners — recently confiscated 
under Napoleon's Berlin Decree — which were being 
equipped to run the gauntlet of the British fleet and 
carry reinforcements for the garrison of Mauritius. He 
met also a number of French officers, some of whom, it 
turned out, he had come across in Egypt when Lord 
Blayney was serving in Abercrombie's army, after the 
Battle of Aboukir, with whom he soon found himself on 
the most friendly terms. From Bayonne he set out for 
Bordeaux, going off again by himself with his soldier 
servant and baggage mules, and taking his own road as 
a matter of convenience: "avoiding the highway which 
was crowded with troops." 

At Bordeaux, also, Lord Blayney managed to make 
things pleasant for himself : making new friends and being 
hospitably entertained, going to the theatre and seeing all 
there was to see. In return for the kindness shown him 
he gave a big dinner party to his French friends at the 
best hotel in the city. Among other officials, he called, 
as an act of policy, on the Commissary of Police, by whom 
he was informed, in the most friendly way — to give him an 
idea how he was really all the time under close surveillance, 
— not only of all his movements and visits, but even of "the 
number of bottles we had drunk the evening before, with 
the whole particulars of our conversation." An American 
doctor, living at Bordeaux, Lord Blayney learned after- 
wards, had been employed to keep an eye on him through- 
out. The American, who had made Blayney's acquaintance 
soon after his arrival, and had shown himself very obliging, 
among other places took the General one day to visit the 
Military Hospital, where he found, in addition to French 


officers, a number of wounded British officers of Welling- 
ton's regiments in Spain, who had somehow got into French 
hands and been sent across the frontier. 

" One night," relates the General, when speaking of 
some of his gaieties, " I went to a masquerade or bal 
masque, dressed as a Benedictine monk. I enjoyed myself 
so much," he tells us, " and the scene was altogether so 
novel, that I quite forgot the gravity of my character, and 
was soon discovered to be un Anglais. My fellow-officers 
also, who were all present, were soon known, and we were 
obliged to accept numberless invitations to drink cham- 
pagne-punch from our French acquaintances. Changing 
his dress during the evening for that of a jovial miller — 
the cost of hiring a costume, says Lord Blayney, was only 
thirty sous — he rejoined the revellers and had a lively time 
until rive in the morning, when he retired with " a suffi- 
ciency of pleasing recollections to last me a twelvemonth." 
So he went on from day to day, being invited out to dinner 
parties and balls, and treated, as he says, as quite the 
" lion " of the place ; until, as before at Madrid, his super- 
abundant energy attracted the attention of the authorities, 
and he was pulled up short. The Adjudant de Place, a 
Polish officer, with a blunt manner that Lord Blayney did 
not like, called at his rooms one morning and gave him 
orders to leave Bordeaux within twenty-four hours. 

Such short notice, however, did not at all suit Lord 
Blayney's convenience, and he went off at once to see the 
French General in command, to arrange, if possible, for 
an extension of his stay. The interview resulted in the 
gay Irishman's getting round the Governor by means of a 
stroke of amusing diplomacy. 

As he entered the room, relates Lord Blayney, the 
General began by finding fault with him for staying so 
long in Bordeaux. " That's a pretty dog you have there, 
Sir !"" interposed Blayney in reply, and interrupting the 
General. The dog, which was lying on the hearth-rug 
before the fire, happened to be a special pet of the French 


General's, and that officer, allowing himself to be put of! 
his guard, paused in his censure and began to talk about 
the dog. Carried away then by more of Blayney's Irish 
blarney in praise of the dog, the French General let his 
attention be diverted entirely from the business in hand. 
" Come outside and see my horses," said he next, and he 
forthwith carried Blayney round to his stables. There the 
astute Irishman professed to admire everything immensely, 
and even got on the back of one of the General's horses 
and showed off its paces, making the horse curvet and 
prance about the yard before the eyes of its delighted 
owner. " When we went back," remarks Lord Blayney, 
" nothing more was said of my leaving Bordeaux, and we 
parted good friends." 

But, all the same, the end of Blayney's time was near at 
hand. Three days later the Governor sent for him to tell 
him that he had had a letter from Paris complaining of 
Lord Blayney's delay on the road, and describing him 
as " a dangerous character." He must really leave 
Bordeaux at once. Otherwise, added the French General, 
he would lose the privilege of his parole, and have to be 
sent off under the escort of gendarmes. The dog was not 
in the room to save the situation that time ; though, even 
then, Lord Blayney, loth to leave his pleasant surround- 
ings for a cold journey north, while expatiating on the 
bruises he had received when made a prisoner, and various 
personal hardships of his journey through Spain, contrived 
to talk the General round until he obtained leave to stay 
at Bordeaux for a week longer. After that, however, he 
had to go, starting off, as before, by himself with his 
batman and baggage on February 20. 

On his way, on the second day of his ride, relates 
Blayney, he overtook half a dozen of his own former 
officers, also on parole by themselves, who were making 
their way north on foot. They had spent all their money 
at Bordeaux, they explained, and had only on them their 
French prisoners' 1 allowances of fifty sous each, the pay 


per etape, or day's march ; on which sum they proposed to 
tramp all the way to Verdun, 440 miles off. " They were 
very cheerful, although they had only a petit ecu between 
them (about half a crown), which they were going to make 
last them until they got to Angoul£me, twenty leagues off." 
To make their daily allowance last out they proposed, as 
they told Lord Blayney, walking two or three Stapes a day, 
thus doubling or trebling their " daily receipt." Although 
Blayney's purse, as he puts it, " was low," he was able to 
set the party up in funds to some extent, after which they 
parted, the officers' feuillcs de route, or officially prescribed 
itineraries, taking them in a different direction from that 
laid down for the General. 

On his way Lord Blayney stopped at one village to 
witness the carnival, and at another was invited by the 
local landowner to dine and sleep at his chateau. 

Along the road at one place he overtook a large military 
convoy of Spanish prisoners, soldiers taken in battle, 
" being driven along by gendarmes." The unfortunate 
fellow s, describes Lord Blayney, " were in a most miser- 
able condition, and treated with the utmost brutality by 
their escort. Their shoes, which had been originally only 
a leather sandal fastened to the foot with a thong, were 
worn out, and their feet dreadfully lacerated. In this 
condition, half starved and dead with fatigue, they were 
goaded on by the gendarmes, who had orders to shoot 
those who should lag behind ; and numbers of them were 
actually thus murdered in cold blood." " While France 
exists as a nation, the barbarous treatment of the Spanish 
prisoners must remain a stain on its character," is Lord 
Blayney's comment. 

At Perigaux he stopped to witness an execution ; the 
guillotining of four French emigres, all men of good family, 
who had been condemned for highway robbery. They 
had lied to America during the Reign of Terror, and had 
returned to France in virtue of Napoleon's amnesty to 
emigres in general, to find their ancestral property confis- 


cated and themselves paupers. In despair they had taken 
to highway robbery, finally waylaying a van laden with 
specie for the troops in Spain, which act of brigandage 
had led to their being hounded down and captured. 

" The guillotine," says Lord Blayney, describing the 
scene as he witnessed it over the heads of the crowd from 
the windows of a tobacconist's shop, " was erected in a 
little place opposite the Hotel de Ville. The executioner 
wore a grey frieze waistcoat and pantaloons, a white 
night-cap covered his head, and his shirt-sleeves were 
tucked up like those of a butcher going to slaughter an 
animal. The victims were attended by two priests, and 
after a short time spent in prayer, they were brought 
forward towards the fatal instrument. La Roque (the 
principal of the emigres), who suffered first, went through 
the terrible preparation without showing the smallest 
emotion ; and his head being severed from his body, the 
executioner held it up, streaming with blood, and said 
something which I could not distinctly hear, but which I 
suppose designated the crime. The guillotine did not 
perform its office so well on the second victim, for the 
head remained attached by the skin, and the executioner 
separated it with a long knife prepared for the purpose. 
The two others saw their comrades suffer without their 
countenances betraying any signs of fear." 

The terrible scene, we are told, gave Lord Blayney a bad 
night. " In the night guillotines and headless trunks 
flitted before my eyes !" 

Next day the General took his usual walk round the 
town sight-seeing, after which he enjoyed " an ex- 
cellent dinner of turkey stuffed with truffles, for which 
Perigaux is celebrated, and a bottle of excellent old 

Thence Lord Blayney took his way by Angouleme until 
he reached the great Paris road from the south. He 
stopped for a day at Poictiers to visit the historic battle- 
field, a mile and a half from the city. Proceeding by way 


of Chatellerault and Beauvais, he made another halt at 
Tours, where he met several English detenus allowed to 
live in that part of France for their health. At Tours 
he met one of the few French officers of rank who 
behaved discourteously to him. According to his custom, 
on arrival, he paid a complimentary visit to the Com- 
mandant of the garrison. One of his detenu friends 
accompanied him. They were ushered into the private 
room of General Bonnard, " who," says Lord Blayney, 
" we found writing in his office, and who had not the 
civility to notice us, but continued to write ; or at least 
seemed to do so, for from his vulgar appearance one might 
doubt whether he could write or not." All the General 
did was to look up suddenly and order his aide-de-camp 
to take the dog which Blayney's friend had brought with 
him out of the room. Then, " the surly ill-conditioned 
fellow " went on writing. Lord Blayney with his friend 
turned away on that to leave the room. As they stalked 
off the General rose and asked them what they wanted 
In answer Blayney said, in as off-hand a manner as he could 
assume, that he had only called to pay a visit of civility. 
General Bonnard muttered something in response, but 
Lord Blayney cut him short with a formal bow, and then 
walked straight out of the room. To avoid more un- 
pleasantness at the hands of the General, he left Tours at 

At Amboise, where he spent the next day, Lord Blayney 
visited the old castle to see a curiosity, the historic 
Oubliette, formerly used for punishing criminals in the 
time of Louis XI. "It is a well," to quote Blayney's 
description of it, " forty feet in diameter and about one 
hundred feet deep. Wooden rollers were placed across 
it at certain distances, turned round by machinery, and to 
which were fixed several two-edged knives. The victim 
being precipitated into the abyss, and falling from one 
roller to another, was minced to pieces before he reached 
the bottom. As this punishment was always inflicted 


secretly, and the victim never more heard of, it received 
the appropriate name of " les Oubliettes." 

At Blois Lord Blayney witnessed the ceremony of the 
public drawing for the conscription. " In order to drown 
sorrow," he remarks, " those who were to ballot had 
recourse to the wine-bottle, and were playing a variety of 
games. This appears to be greatly encouraged by the 
magistrates in order to prevent the discontent that results 
from the abhorred measure. Lord Blayney makes men- 
tion also of some pitiful scenes he witnessed at Blois, and 
elsewhere afterwards, on similar occasions ; the lamenta- 
tion and weeping of the old people, the fathers and 
mothers, and the wives and sisters of the conscripts, and 
he also tells how many of the young fellows cut off their 
thumbs and mutilated themselves for life to avoid being 
made to go and fight. 

Speaking of the terrible drain of the Napoleonic Wars 
on the manhood of France, Lord Blayney says this also, 
from what he saw on his way through the country. " The 
scarcity of men forcibly strikes the stranger travelling in 
France. In the villages of one hundred houses I have 
never been able to count above half a dozen old men, 
and scarce a youth is seen in the country. The greatest 
share of field labour falls on the women, who, when they 
have infants, bandage them up like Egyptian mummies 
and set them down in a corner of the field to squall their 
lungs away, while the mothers follow the plough or turn 
up the ground with a spade. At the post-houses, the 
duty of the ostler is usually performed by females, and 
the attendants at the auberges are invariably strapping 
wenches, whose loquacity and familiarity are equally tire- 
some and obtrusive. 

At Chambord, Lord Blayney had one of his unpleasant 
experiences. While at his dinner at an inn the Deputy 
Mayor of the place, accompanied by a gendarme, suddenly 
burst in on him. The Deputy Mayor without more ado 
declared Lord Blayney under arrest as a " danger to the 


State." He would have, declared the Mayor angrily, to 
go to prison forthwith, as his account of himself on arrival 
was unsatisfactory. Lord Blayney met the intrusion by 
laughing at the matter, and asking the Deputy Mayor and 
the gendarme to sit down and have a glass of wine with 
him. At the same time he produced his travelling pass- 
port, or feuille de route, explaining that it was quite in order. 
It named, he pointed out, a certain day for his arrival at 
Verdun depot, and directed that he was not to be molested 
on his journey, and to receive every facility from the local 
authorities. The Deputy Mayor, however, was not to be 
placated, and an angry scene followed, Lord Blayney, for 
his part, threatening to bring the matter to the notice of 
the Minister of War, which, he pointed out, would entail 
serious consequences for the Deputy Mayor. He had 
though, in the end, to submit to force majeure, and was 
conducted back to Blois escorted ignominiously by the 
Deputy Mayor and the gendarme. In the town, however, 
the contretemps ended with satisfaction to Lord Blayney, 
after an interview with the Commandant of the garrison 
and the Mayor of Blois. The Mayor, indeed, was most 
profuse in his apologies, as Lord Blayney relates, " telling 
me with many bows that my air distingue ought to have 
been sufficient passport, and I must excuse the ignorance 
of village magistrates." 

At Orleans, at the end of the next stage of his route, he 
had again some trouble with an over-zealous Commissary 
of Police, who pounced down on Lord Blayney at his inn, 
" accompanied by a corporal, four soldiers, and three 
gendarmes," and carried off Lord Blayney's English 
soldier-servant to prison on the plea that the man's name 
was not entered on the feuille de route. They treated 
the servant very brutally, tied his hands behind him, 
and marched him off through the crowded streets to 
the city prison. The General's batman, however, was 
released after a couple of hours detention through 
Lord Blayney's protests to the Mayor of Orleans, the 


Police Commissary getting a severe reprimand for " want 
of judgment." 

During the three days that Lord Blayney spent at 
Orleans he went about without further annoyance, and 
was enabled to witness the grand fetes given in honour of 
the birth of Napoleon's son by Marie Louise, the " King of 
Rome," which was publicly announced on March 24, on 
the arrival of a courier from Paris with the news. The 
whole city, Lord Blayney relates, went mad with excite- 
ment, the shops being shut and the houses decorated, 
while military bands played at the street corners, and 
dancing went on in the squares all day, a municipal banquet 
and ball, with illuminations and fireworks, winding up the 

On April 1 Lord Blayney left Orleans, and two days 
later he entered Paris — some six months after his being 
captured in the south of Spain. He had been clever 
enough to spin out to that time his journey towards his 
place of captivity, a matter of less than three months 
for ordinary prisoners of war. And he was not yet at 
Verdun. He entered Paris, as he tells, in the most matter 
of fact way, calmly passed the barrier, apparently without 
challenge, and after a ride along the Boulevards at his 
leisure, quietly found lodgings for himself at one of the 
best hotels in Paris, the Hotel de Richelieu in the Rue de 

As a matter of policy he called next morning at the 
offices of the £tat Major of the Minister of War, and saw 
the Secretary to the Minister, " who very politely said he 
saw no reason to suppose that I would meet with desagre- 
mens if I stayed a few days, although no permission had 
been accorded me for the purpose." Taking prompt 
advantage of the freedom allowed him, Lord Blayney set 
out forthwith to enjoy himself in Paris. 

He visited the Tuileries and the Luxembourg, enjoyed 
himself at the Palais Royal, went to see the animals in the 
Jardin des Plantes, and inspected Napoleon's great column 


of the Grand Army erected in honour of Austerlitz, with 
melted down metal of the captured Austrian cannon. 
Between whiles he treated himself to recherche dinners at 
Very's, the fashionable cafe of Napoleonic Paris, followed 
by pleasant evenings at the opera. So he passed the time 
very agreeably for a week, paying calls also to certain of 
the few English detenus allowed by special exemption to 
reside in Paris, and also attending the salons of leading 
ladies of fashion, where he renewed acquaintanceship with 
friends of former times. Lord Blayney knew his way 
about Paris well, having previously spent some time there 
as one of the crowd of English visitors of social distinction 
who thronged la ville lumicre during the lively months 
immediately after the peace of Amiens. On one evening 
also he attended a grand dinner-party at the Salon des 
Etrangers, where he was introduced to " several Ministers 
of State and high personages." After that dinner he spent 
half the night in the salon de jeu, playing Rouge et Noir, 
and, for a change this time, losing 300 louis d'or. That 
was on his last night of liberty in Paris, as the event 

As had happened elsewhere, the British General's social 
activities drew on Lord Blayney the suspicious attention 
of the authorities. Next morning early once more an 
Adjudant de Place came to see him, appearing at the 
Hotel de Richelieu, accompanied by an escort of soldiers, 
to hale Lord Blayney off before the General commanding 
1 the garrison of the capital — General Hulin, Governor of 
: Paris. 

The consequences were exceptionally unpleasant for 
' Lord Blayney. 

" The Adjutant," as he describes, " entered my room 
with two of his myrmidons and demanded, with all the 
I insolent airs of office, what brought me to, and what 
[detained me at, Paris? He added that 'if I could not 
•give a good account of myself to the General I must 
[expect the most serious consequences.' While I was 


huddling on my clothes, he exclaimed every moment : 

' Allons f , ce n'est pas le temps de faire la toilette !' 

I was therefore obliged to march off with my coat and 
waistcoat on my arm, and to tie my neckcloth in the 
street, through which I was hurried by these ruffians as if 
I had been a criminal. They first conducted me to the 
Hotel of Compte Hulin, Governor of Paris, who ordered 
me to be transferred to the office of his Etat Major, there 
to be strictly examined, and a report made to him. The 
questions put to me were of such a nature that it might 
have appeared that they suspected me of some heinous plot 
against the State. At first their language was most menacing 
and imperious; but finding I would confess nothing, 
having, indeed, nothing to confess, their tone softened." 

The mention of a name of a certain Parisienne friend, 
a lady with influence in high quarters, as Lord Blayney 
goes on to say, " caused the A djudant de Place, who was 
my chief examiner, to reflect." After that the French 
officials supplied Lord Blayney with writing materials, 
giving him leave to write and inform any of his friends 
of his arrest. He was detained meanwhile in the room 
of the Adjudant de Place. Lord Blayney's French friends 
did not apparently reply promptly ; but one of the 
English detenus permitted to reside in Paris, Sir John 
Coghill, did. Sir John came to see him at once, and 
after a short talk hastened off to try and get an audience 
of Savary, Duke of Rovigo, Napoleon's then Minister of 

After Sir John Coghill had left on his friendly errand 
an English visitor of another kind, who had accidentally 
heard of Lord Blayney's arrest, paid him a call. This 
time the visit caused Blayney some embarrassment. The 
person was a British naval officer, a Lieutenant Owen, 
who was temporarily in Paris under special police 
surveillance, " being allowed out of his lodgings for 
only two hours a day," as Blayney remarks. Lieutenant 
Owen, the General says, had been brought to the capital 


pending certain investigations, it being suspected that, 
while on parole at Verdun, he had been in secret 
correspondence with certain Swiss officers, plotting to 
corrupt the men of one of Napoleon's Swiss regiments 
garrisoning Belleisle in the Bay of Biscay. Owen, says 
Lord Blayney, had called twice on him during the 
previous day to ask advice about his own position. That 
was the last kind of visitor that Lord Blayney in the 
circumstances of the hour wanted to see. On the 
Lieutenant's coming to see him again now, Blayney, 
anxious for his own safety, warned the unfortunate fellow 
off. " I begged him not to come and see me again, as 
I could not help him and his visiting me might have bad 
consequences for both." 

While talking to the Adjudant de Place during his 
hours of waiting, Lord Blayney, in reply to a question 
he put to that officer, was told that his name had been 
for some time on the books of the Police Office, having 
been placed there, the Adjudant de Place understood, in 
consequence of certain information which had been 
received from General Beliard at Madrid. All the time 
apparently, as Blayney remarks, the Adjudant de Place 
was very nervous lest he should try and escape by bolting 
from the room. " When I once, in walking up and down 
the room approached the door, he cried out, ' Gardez 
bien ce Monsieur la !' and I was prevented from again 
going near the door." 

For his own part, Lord Blayney's nerves, naturally 
enough, were in a high state of tension all the afternoon 
over his possible destination. He fully expected, he says, 
to be sent to the Temple prison ; of very evil reputa- 
tion at that day for the tragedies that had taken place 

Lord Blayney's case though, in the outcome, was not 
considered sufficiently serious to warrant incarceration 
in Paris. The affair was allowed to terminate with the 
temporary suspension of the privileges of his parole and 


his being ordered to resume his journey to Verdun forth- 
with, under arrest, escorted by a gendarme. 

He was sent off early next morning in a chaise with his 
custodian seated by his side, and after a week's travelling 
under restrictions that Lord Blayney found very un- 
pleasant, reached his destination. He had to submit 
to the annoyance of having the gendarme at table with 
him, paying for all the man ate and drank ; and at the 
inns where they stopped for the night, to Lord Blayney's 
utter disgust, the man slept in a bed in the same room. 
In that manner the General at length got to Verdun on 
April 14, 1811. 

Immediately on his arrival at Verdun the British 
General was taken by his gendarme custodian before 
the Governor of the fortress, as Lord Blayney himself 
describes : 

" On entering the town I was conducted to the citadel 
and before the Commandant, a Colonel Courcelles, whose 
appearance was not calculated to do away the unfavour- 
able account I had heard of him. A red woollen cap 
and a grey frieze jacket and pantaloons constituted his 
dress, and he filled the room with a cloud of smoke 
from a great pipe. He was, however, civil, and when 
the clerks had, according to the Verdun expression, 
'drawn my picture,' that is, taken down my description, 
age, the place of my birth, and my father and mother's 
names, and having signed a parole not to quit the town 
without permission, I was allowed to retire at perfect 

Speaking in general terms of his first impressions of 
life among the Verdun prisoners, as it was in the time of 
Courcelles' Governorship, General Blayney says this : 

" As the depot is solely appropriated to those on 
parole, each has a passport which permits him to walk 
or ride in every direction, two leagues from the town, 
between the opening of the gates at daylight and their 
shutting at dusk. Field officers and naval captains sign 


a public register once a month ; all other commissioned 
officers every fifth day, and every other prisoner (except 
by particular indulgence) every day. All general con- 
vivial meetings of prisoners must be sanctioned by the 
Commandant, and as this has never been refused, the 
Anniversaries of His Majesty's birth, and of St. Patrick 
have been always celebrated at Verdun with as much 
loyalty and devotion as in the capital of the British 

" Some time after my arrival Monsieur Courcelles was 
superseded in the command of the depot, in consequence 
of the complaints of the prisoners, particularly the mid- 
shipmen, who (without the slightest cause except his 
villainous caprice) he confined in the citadel where 
they were subject to every kind of ill-treatment and 

Lord Blayney goes on with " an endeavour to paint the 
old system as it was described to me by persons resident 
in the depot since its first establishment." 

"The first Commandant," he says, "was General 
Roussel, who treated the prisoners in the best manner ; 
but in a few months he was replaced by General Wirion, 
as great a rogue as the Revolution has produced. Under 
him everything was venial and the prisoners of all ranks 
were plundered, both by himself and his underlings in 
every possible manner. 

" From those whom he knew possessed fortunes he 
extorted immense sums as the price of indulgences he 
granted them ; or of refraining from sending them to 
Bitche, which he had the power to do without assigning 
any cause. More than once a number of the most 
quiet persons in the depot have been dragged from their 
beds and marched off to that infernal cavern without 
having the slightest knowledge of the reason ; and many 
of them, after suffering two years of the most complicated 
misery in its dungeons, when they returned to Verdun 
were still quite ignorant of the motives of their arrest." 


Mentioning the case of a Post-Captain, the Commander 
of the frigate Blanche, wrecked off Ushant in March, 1807, 
Lord Blayney adds this : 

" Sir T. Lavie, the senior naval officer, was dragged out 
of his bed and hurried off to the fortress of Montmedy, 
where he was kept closely confined as a State prisoner for 
some months, and not allowed the use of paper, pen, 
or ink." 

" One instance," proceeds the General, " will be sufficient 
to give an idea of General Wirion's character. A number 
of English gentlemen of good fortune frequently invited 
him to dinner, and allowed him to win their money as a 
certain way of keeping on good terms with him. One of 
these gentleman, however, had offended unknowingly, and 
Wirion destined him to Bitche, but receiving an invitation 
to dine with him, he accepted and appeared to be on the 
very best terms with his host. The Englishman was not 
a little astonished to find, when the General retired 
towards morning, two gendarmes enter and tell him he 
had only till daylight to prepare himself to march for that 

" The system of extortion of the Lieutenant of Gen- 
darmes, who was second in command, and of the non- 
commissioned officers of that corps, were regularly 
organized. At this time every prisoner without distinction 
was obliged to sign twice a day ; and, by another regula- 
tion of the General's, if they neglected to do so, they were 
obliged to pay three francs to the gendarme who went to 
visit them. It was soon found that this measure brought 
in but little, as none but persons of fortune could afford to 
pay a crown a day for the liberty of sleeping in the 
morning and riding out in the afternoon. Hence the 
system was changed, and for six or twelve francs a month 
a tacit permission was granted to forget these frequent 

" The masters of the merchantmen, by far the greater 
number of whom were in a state of the greatest distress, 


did not escape the grasp of these harpies. By the regula- 
tions they were obliged to live ten in a house, to be 
mutually responsible for each other, body for body ; and 
besides were mustered twice a day. In order to be freed 
from the effect of these regulations, they were forced to 
pay the gendarmes whatever they could scrape together. 

'• Besides this open and general system, the gendarmes 
had another efficient method of raising contributions : by 
lotteries for horses, watches, trinkets, etc., that often had 
no existence, or if they had it made no difference, the 
winner being well assured that the consequence of insisting 
on receiving the object would be a visit to Bitche, as was 
the fate of a gentleman who won a horse in this manner 
from the Lieutenant of Gendarmerie, and did not choose 
to say, as half a dozen others had, ' Monsieur, je vous 
prie de la garder comme une souvenir de 1'amitieV" 

" Some of the prisoners forwarded written protests at 
their ill-treatment to Marshal Berthier, the Minister of 
War in Paris from 1803 to 1810, but no redress was forth- 
coming. Wirion was a protege of Berthier's, and Berthier 
destroyed or pigeon-holed the complaints. His successor, 
however, called Wirion to account. 

" On General Clarke being appointed Head of the 
Department in Berthier's place, the prisoners renewed 
their complaints against Wirion, and he was called on to 
explain his conduct, and went to Paris. Apparently a 
public inquiry was ordered, and he shot himself in the 
Bois de Boulogne. His Lieutenant of Gendarmerie and 
Second were reduced to the ranks." 

" Courcelles, who succeeded Wirion, had been up to 
then Commandant de Place at Verdun. Under his rule 
open extortion ceased, but the system of picking by under- 
hand means was continued. One method employed was 
by tampering with the prisoners' allowances. Under 
Wirion the monthly payment to the prisoners was always 
in livres tonrnois, instead of, according to the ordinary 
reckoning, in francs, by which means the officials put 


i£ per cent, of the money supplied for the payments 
into their own pockets, eighty francs being equivalent 
to eighty-one livres, or fifteen louis, a month. Courcelles 
continued the system, and added a new method of illegiti- 
mate plunder, which in its working fell almost entirely on 
the midshipmen. 

"On pretence of some desertions among this class," 
relates Lord Blayney, " he caused the whole of them to be 
arrested and closely confined in an old convent of the 
citadel. They were obliged to pay thirty sous a month 
each for the lights kept burning by their guards, besides 
being charged most enormously for every dilapidation. 
The whole product of both these taxes went into the 
pocket of Courcelles and his affides, for the lights were 
allowed by the Government, and the dilapidations were 
never made good. Upon a moderate average these two 
objects produced twenty louis a month. 

" But the third and grand regulation was the wine. 
Courcelles having a vineyard near Verdun which produced 
a vin de pays, worth about six sous a bottle, he obliged the 
persons confined in the citadel to purchase the wine at 
fifteen sous from his natural son, whom he had appointed 
turnkey at one of the dungeons. From an accurate 
calculation the profits arising from this monopoly amounted 
to forty-five louis a month, making in the whole eighty 

" But independent of these extortions, the midshipmen 
were treated with the most brutal inhumanity, and on the 
slightest murmur were thrown into a dungeon called the 
' Tour d'Angouleme,' being a round tower with only two 
apartments, in which the Due d'Angouleme had been 

* It was in the Tour d'Angouleme that General Wirion confined 
midshipmen whom he bore a grudge against. He kept one set shut up 
there for ten months. The lads, we are told, instituted an " Order " 
among themselves of " The Knights of the Round Tower," and for 
years after their release they used to meet and celebrate the day of 
their liberation by a dinner, "at which each member wore the ribbon 
of the Order." 


" At length the midshipmen, seeing no prospect of any 
remission of their sufferings, detailed them in a letter to 
the Minister of War, which produced an inquiry into the 
conduct of Courcelles, and although he had been too 
cautious to allow any proof of his sharing in the plunder 
to be brought home to him, and threw the whole burden 
on the shoulders of the Lieutenant of Gendarmerie, his 
conduct was evidently disapproved of by his being imme- 
diately removed both from the command of the depot and 
from the situation of Commandant de Place. With respect 
to his cat's-paw, the Lieutenant of Gendarmerie, he followed 
Wirion's example, giving himself a quietus with a pistol 
on the glacis." 

There was another phase of life at Verdun — of which 
mention has been made — to which General Blayney refers: 

" Among the prisoners at the depot at first were two 
sets — detenus, or hostages, and prisoners of war. Among 
the former were many respectable families seized in 1803, 
but also there were debtors who had given the King's Bench 
the slip, and on the Continent were living by their wits ; 
and also many traders, tailors, bootmakers, and traiteurs. 

" The traiteurs in particular, during the first years of 
the depot, made fortunes by the epicureanism of the 
detenus. In their shops were to be found the most delicate 
and expensive viands from the most distant provinces of 
the Empire: the celebrated pates de foie gras, the poularde 
aux trujjlcs of Paris, the oysters of Concale, the turbot and 
cod of the North Sea, and the tunny-fish of the Mediter- 
ranean. The prices of these delicacies was enormous, the 
poularde costing two louis, and turbot and cod four francs 
the pound, but prices were never considered, for, as 
Verdun was then full of accommodating Jews who lent 
money on personal security at 100 per cent, interest, 
it was by no means difficult to raise the wind. Hence, in 
many instances, there was but little difference in the style 
of living of the di'tenus of the first fortune, the midshipmen 
of the navy, and the bankrupt blackleg. 


" At this period Verdun had a Pharo Bank and a Rouge 
et Noir table, to which every description of persons were 
admitted, where perfect equality reigned, and where our 
countrymen of the first rank might be seen seated along- 
side a ragged Jew, a mud-covered peasant, or a fille 
publique. Here a great number of young men were 
completely ruined, it being supposed that while it con- 
tinued, £50,000 were lost by the prisoners every year. It 
was at last shut up in consequence of a general regulation 
limiting the numbers of licensed gaming-houses." 

" Gaming disputes," remarks the General, " led to many 
duels, and several lives were so lost." 

Taking advantage of a responsible officer of General's 
rank being among the prisoners of war at Verdun, the 
War Office in London — just as the Admiralty had pre- 
viously done in the case of Captain Brenton — obtained 
the sanction of the French Ministry of War for Lord 
Blayney to make arrangements for the relief of the poorer 
prisoners ; funds being forwarded to him from the British 
Treasury for the purpose. Lord Blayney himself appa- 
rently induced the War Office authorities to move in the 
matter, by immediately on his arrival at Verdun setting 
on foot an inquiry as to the clothing and health of the 
prisoners. He represented their sufferings to the British 
Government, and was empowered to arrange for a supply 
of better food and proper clothing, which greatly improved 
their state, his action — " doing away with one great in- 
ducement to desertions, and saving several lives in the 
inclement winter." 

Lord Blayney's good work was, however, interfered with 
and put a stop to by the French authorities, through 
measures that were taken towards himself. 

This is how he describes what befell him : 

"At seven one morning my house was surrounded by 
guards, and every avenue of escape was secured. The 
General officer commanding the Department then entered 
my bedroom, in which I was dressing, and addressing me 


very politely informed me His Majesty had received certain 
information of my being in possession of papers of con- 
sequence which he (the French General) was ordered to 
seize and forward to Paris. In consequence, my writing- 
desk, etc., were soon emptied, and the whole of the private 
letters and manuscripts they found were carried off to be 
examined. Among other papers of equally little import- 
ance were some drawings of the country and a few rough 
sketches of imaginary fortifications. 

" At sight of these," remarks Lord Rlayney, " the 
General thought he had caught me ; but being unable 
to make anything of them, he said : ' Certainly you have 
taken plans of the neighbouring country!' To that I 
replied : ' Surely, Monsieur le General, you cannot think 
I would throw away my time in secretly stealing plans 
which I can buy in any bookseller's shop for a few francs; 
and infinitely more accurate than it would be possible for 
me to make them.' 

" He then said: ' But you have written disrespectfully 
of His Majesty the Emperor!' In answer to that I 
observed that he was in possession of my papers, and 
would most probably find on perusing them that I never 
gave myself a thought about his Emperor ; but that if he 
should happen to find him mentioned, he would be pleased 
to consider that I was a British officer, by whom His 
Majesty could not in reason expect to be paid com- 
pliments ! 

" My papers, after being six weeks in Paris, were 
returned to me with a polite note from the Due de Feltre, 
Minister of War, to the Commandant of the depot, expres- 
sing his sorrow for the trouble occasioned me on this 

The then Governor of Verdun, it should be said, was 
the officer who had succeeded Wirion and Courcelles, the 
Baron de Beauchene, a courteous gentleman and a kind 
and humane gaoler to his captives, as has earlier been told 
at some length. 


But there was more in store for the General. Lord 
Blayney had yet to undergo a further experience of what 
it meant to be in the grip of Napoleon as a prisoner 
of war. 

" Not long afterwards I was visited one morning by 
the Lieutenant of Gendarmerie, who notified the Com- 
mandant's desire to see me immediately. On my arrival 
this officer expressed his concern at the very unpleasant 
duty imposed on him, in being obliged to inform me that 
I was a close prisoner by order of the Emperor. He then 
read a letter from the Minister of War explaining the 

The letter (dated March 6, 1813) stated that the British 
Government had arrested and thrown into prison the 
French General Simon, one of Wellington's captives, 
on parole in England, and in retaliation Lord Blayney 
was to be arrested forthwith and detained in the citadel 
of Verdun. Also he was informed that he would answer 
with his head for whatever the British Government might 
do to General Simon.* In high indignation at his treat- 
ment, General Blayney wrote off a letter of protest to 
England, to Lord Liverpool, the Foreign Minister, re- 
questing that steps should be taken at once to relieve 
him from his position. 

To resume with Lord Blayney's personal narrative : — 

" From the General I was conducted to the Convent of 
St. Vannes in the citadel, where a small room, about four- 
teen feet square, was allotted me, the window of which 
was strongly barred. Two gendarmes were placed in a 
little passage leading to the room, each of whom I was 
obliged to pay for guarding me. The Commandant was, 
however, so kind as to permit me to take the air within 
the citadel during the day, at which times a gendarme 
always kept a few paces behind me. During the night, 
however, I was grievously tormented by these myrmidons, 
for, as they kept watch alternately for an hour, each one, 

* See ante, p. 171. 


whenever it was his turn to mount, opening my door and 
politely inquiring if I wanted anything. So strict were 
their orders to take care of me that, not content with this 
hourly intrusion, they would often repeat the same kind 
inquiry in the intervals ; so that during the whole time I 
remained here I scarcely got one hour's continued rest! 

" In this close confinement I remained for seven weeks, 
as a hostage to deter the English Government from 
punishing a French General officer who had not only 
broken his parole, but had also laid plans for arming 
and raising the French prisoners in England, which, 
according to the laws of war, subjected him to the 
punishment of a spy. When I was at length set at 
liberty, it was without the slightest expression of concern 
that such harsh measures had been necessary — a species 
of apology I had a right to expect at least ! 

" During my confinement," adds Lord Blayney, " I 
feared nothing so much as being removed to Bitche, of 
which place I had received such accounts as left scarce 
a doubt of death being preferable."* 

After his release General Blayney was left undisturbed 
by the authorities, and his former harmonious relations 
with the Baron de Beauchene were resumed. They were 
unimpaired by what had happened. Then, to the general 
and genuine sorrow of all the Verdun prisoners, the 
courteous and kindly French Commandant died — in the 
spring of 1S13. The Governor's funeral, as Lord Blayney 
relates, " was attended by every Englishman in the depot 
whose goodwill he had gained by his honourable treat- 
ment, so different from that of Wirion and Courcelles." 

His successor again proved an officer of the same stamp, 
and under his rule also various diversions that might serve 
to ameliorate the lot of the prisoners were continued. 
Horse-racing was one. 

After his release from confinement in the autumn of 

* Sec Lieutenant James's narrative with regard to what certain 
of the Verdun prisoners thought of Lord Blayney (pp. 171-2;. 


1812, Lord Blayney, for one thing, had been allowed to 
revive the race meetings, held in a meadow just outside 
the walls of the fortress, which, as has also been related, 
had been an occasional diversion among the prisoners in 
the earlier days of captivity. " In order," says Blayney, 
" to enliven the sameness and ennui which pervaded the 
depot, I had some horses on the turf, and our races were 
established." The meetings soon became popular, as 
affording opportunities for pleasant social gatherings 
among the French officers and families of the garrison, as 
well as, we are told, " of the first French families of the 

Among the officers under detention at Verdun, indeed, 
the keenest interest soon got to be taken in the races — in 
regard to which General Blayney tells, among others, this 
story : 

" The schemes planned to discover the speed of the 
various horses by trial, without being discovered, were 
curious. I once saw a friend of mine up to his middle in 
the river, with a Frenchman's coat and cocked hat on, and 
a fishing-rod in one hand, while in the other he held a 
stop-watch to ascertain the fleetness of the horse going 
round the course. It is probable that these ruses de 
guerre," adds the General, "would not be deemed admis- 
sible at Newmarket, but at Verdun the humour rendered 
them merely laughable, and as they were practised by 
each side, they were treated as quite fair, and none had a 
right to complain." 

Lord Blayney remained a prisoner of war in France 
until the cessation of hostilities in April, 1814. Promoted 
Lieutenant-General in 1819, his health broke down not 
long afterwards, and he went on the Retired List. He 
died in April, 1834, an d was succeeded by his only son, at 
whose death without issue in 1874 the Blayney peerage 
became extinct. 


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IT was after the negotiations for peace in 1806 broke 
down that the attempts at escape among the British 
prisoners became frequent, and began to cause serious 
trouble to the French authorities at the different depots. 
Before that the attempts had been comparatively few. 
Henceforward, as time passed, with no end to their 
captivity in sight, the prisoners at Verdun and elsewhere 
became more and more reckless in their endeavours to 
get free, and their breakings out more numerous. 

In 1S12 the Moniteur published a list, with names, of 
no fewer than 355 British prisoners, naval and military' 
officers and men, as well as detenus, who had disappeared 
from their places of confinement and got away to England. 
How certain of the escapes were carried through will be 
told in the words of those who effected them. 

Some of the officers, we are told, purposely contrived to 
have their parole revoked for some minor offence before 
making their escape. Others, after making their arrange- 
ments, coolly wrote on the eve of going off to the Com- 
mandant of the depot giving back their parole, and bidding 
their gaolers good-bye. Some of the prisoners did not 
take even that formality, justifying their act to themselves 
as fair retaliation on the score of personal ill-usage and 
illegalities on the part of their custodians. The greater 
number of these parole-breakers, it would appear, were 
among the civilian detenus and merchant-ship skippers 
and mates ; the naval and military officers were, as a rule, 
more scrupulous about deliberately violating their word 
of honour. 



With regard to this matter of parole, indeed, the Court 
of Inquiry held in England on escaped prisoners reporting 
themselves had, in the case of officers, always to be 
satisfied. One escaped officer from Verdun, it is on 
record, who had broken his parole in flagrantly irregular 
circumstances, was actually sent back to France by the 
British Government. He was, it is stated, a Lieutenant 
Sheehy of the 89th Foot, who made his escape from 
Verdun in October, 1813. At the personal instance of the 
Prince Regent, it is stated, he was publicly reprimanded 
in a memorandum issued by the Commander-in-Chief, and 
sent back in arrest under flag of truce to Morlaix, where 
he arrived in March, 1814. It was, as it happened, just 
at the moment that Napoleon was in the midst of his 
last desperate effort to rescue Paris, and to attend to the 
matter was, of course, out of the question. The Lieutenant 
was detained at Morlaix pending instructions from the 
Emperor which never came, and within three weeks 
hostilities were over. Nothing more is on record about 
him after that; he was not, however, it would appear, 
allowed to rejoin his regiment. 

Among the naval prisoners, Lieutenant George Vernon 
Jackson, who lived to become an Admiral, attempted 
four escapes. The first was while he was on his way 
under guard from Brest to Verdun ; and he remained 
at large in France, with a brother officer, a midshipman, 
Mr. F. Whitehurst, hidden first at one place, then at 
another, for the lengthy period of fourteen months. After 
that he and his companion, getting to the coast near the 
mouth of the Seine, found means of launching a flat- 
bottomed boat which they had managed to get hold of, 
with a sheet for a sail ; but their luck now turned against 
them, and they were seen, chased, and recaptured by 
local fishermen. Lieutenant Jackson was taken back to 
Verdun and shut up in the citadel until again, this time 
with four other prisoners, he contrived to make his escape. 
Again he was recaptured, the party being pursued and 


surrounded on the second day of their flight. Imprisoned 
now in an underground cell of the Porte Chaussee gaol 
of Verdun, he made two other attempts to get away, both 
of which were foiled at the last moment. On the first 
occasion Lieutenant Jackson's companion fell and broke 
his thigh, necessitating the abandonment of the attempt ; 
on the second, the clumsiness of another companion gave 
the alarm to a sentry near by. He was sent, in conse- 
quence, to the dungeons of Bitche heavily chained, to 
escape finally from there with a military friend, Lieutenant 
l'Estrange, of the 71st Regiment. The two had to separate 
to avoid capture, Lieutenant Jackson at the last finding 
a boat near a village on the coast of Normandy, in which 
he rowed across the channel until he was picked up in a 
state of complete exhaustion by a British cruiser off 
Selsey Bill. 

A midshipman named Temple escaped by crouching at 
the far end of a diligence under the cover of the petticoats 
of two women, a French lady friend of his and her 
servant. Hidden like that he contrived to get all the way 
to Strasburg, where the French lady, who was a native 
of the city, managed to get a passport for Temple, and 
smuggled him across the Rhine. In the end he made his 
way to Austrian territory and thence to Trieste, where he 
got on board ship. 

Another young fellow, who had acquired a perfect 
knowledge of French — William Wright was his name — 
got away from Verdun, and after wandering in France for 
some time, contrived somehow to get himself appointed 
interpreter to a French General, General Brabancon, com- 
manding at Havre. Watching his opportunity, he suc- 
ceeded one night in creeping on board an English vessel 
which had been sent in with a flag of truce, and hid himself 
in a large trunk while the vessel, as was customary, was 
being searched by the police before sailing. Nobody 
opened the trunk, and, after remaining shut up for an hour, 
as soon as the ship was at sea, the stowaway made his 


appearance, free once more. Two seamen, named Butter- 
field and Henson, also managed to escape from Verdun 
and make their way undetected across the whole length of 
France until near Marseilles. There, however, the pair 
were stopped, to be sent back to Verdun and forwarded 
thence for the expiation of their offence to the dungeons 
of Bitche. 

The younger and more active among the detenus, who 
all, it should be said, persistently refused to consider 
themselves as legitimate prisoners, were no less venture- 
some in their attempts to escape from Verdun. Some 
daringly let themselves down by ropes from the ramparts 
of the fortress, which were seventy feet above the ditch, 
or got away disguised as peasants, in more than one 
instance coolly walking out through the gates on market- 
day. More than one, instead of going towards the coast, 
put their pursuers off the trail by making for the Rhine, 
after crossing which it was less difficult to find friends 
willing to render help. All sorts of devices were resorted 
to. One detenu went for a bathe in the Meuse near 
Verdun one day and disappeared, leaving his clothes on 
the river-bank to make it seem as if he had been drowned. 
He was, however, arrested elsewhere and sent back, when 
it came out that he had made use of a forged passport, 
and had bribed some of the neighbouring villagers to help 
him away. Two young fellows escaped to Strasburg 
concealed under the letter-bags in a mailcart. One cool 
lad, Peter Playgrove was his name, escaped with — for 
companion — a young French friend, the two being disguised 
as peasants. They boldly took a line for Switzerland. 
Not having passports, they bought a waggon with a load 
of hay, and on entering the towns on their road pretended 
they had just come from a neighbouring village, the name 
of which they had acquainted themselves with beforehand, 
and were going into the town to sell their hay. The 
octroi officials seem usually to have satisfied themselves 
with just sticking a pike into the hay and letting the cart 


pass. At the further gate of the town they gave the name 
of a village on that side, whither they were going home, 
they said, with a load of newly-purchased hay. In that 
manner they contrived to make their way to Switzerland, 
where young Playgrove obtained an authorized passport 
for Trieste, and thence shipped to Malta. 

Two English doctors lowered themselves from the wall 
of Verdun citadel safely, but could not get across the 
fortress ditch, and had to give themselves up. A barrister, 
one of the detenus, got out of the citadel in the same 
manner and over the ditch, only, however, to be arrested 
at Metz and sent back to Verdun, with consequent com- 
mittal to the dungeons of Bitche. According to a friend 
of his : " He endured one of the greatest indignities ever 
offered to a man in his respectable line of life — the 
common gendarme who brought him back declared that 
he had orders to sleep with him in the same bed ! Let 
every gentleman," comments the irate writer, " reflect 
upon this insult before he sets foot in France !" The 
restless lawyer, it would appear, schemed to get away 
from Bitche in turn, but a spy — one of several creatures 
of the kind who were lodged in disguise among the British 
prisoners to detect any plans for escape that might be on 
foot — discovered his project to the Commandant. A 
search was made, and a rope-ladder being found in the 
lawyer's trunk, he was placed in the lowermost dungeon, 
fifty feet under ground. That, as it happens, is the last 
we hear of him. 

For aiding friends to escape very severe penalties were 
inflicted. A midshipman of the name of Wright, for 
instance, was sent to Bitche for holding the rope by 
which a fellow midshipman let himself down from the 
ramparts of Verdun citadel, as was a detenu named Knox 
who had stood security for a Captain Brown who escaped 
but was recaptured. 

At the Arras and Valenciennes depots, so numerous 
were the escapes in the winter of 1806 and the early part 


of 1807 that those two depots were temporarily closed 
and the prisoners transferred to Verdun. There, on their 
arrival, General Wirion had the newcomers specially 
paraded and informed that the first man who should 
attempt to escape while under his charge would be 
shot. Wirion, however, did not venture to put his threat 
into execution. As for the escapes from Valenciennes, 
there had been over forty in one month : so frequently, 
indeed, did prisoners disappear at that time, that, as 
we are told by one of the Verdun detenus who heard the 
story on the arrival of the Valenciennes prisoners, 
" every morning those who came upon the promenade 
used to inquire who had escaped during the previous 
night !" At Verdun, in 1809, owing to the number of 
escapes among the British prisoners belonging to the 
mercantile marine, orders were issued for all men under 
fifty years of age to sleep in the citadel every night during 
the winter, and they were forbidden also to go outside the 
town gates during the day. 

The escapes of detenus were not seldom brought about 
through the instrumentality of paid agents in the neigh- 
bouring villages, on terms arranged by the fugitive's 
friends at home, the agents, many of whom were 
Belgians, providing forged passports and providing guides 
for the journey to the coast, accommodation en rotite 
being arranged for by means of confederates at different 
places. Smugglers and fishermen with whom the agents 
were in league carried the escaped prisoners over to 
England. A number of these Belgians and some French 
villagers were prosecuted from time to time, but the traffic 
went on all the same. 

The firing of cannon from the fortress ramparts was 
the universal signal to notify an escape to the people 
of the surrounding country, one shot being fired for each 
escaped prisoner, and there was a standing reward for 
re-captures at the rate of fifty livres (£2 is. 8d.) for each 


Re-capture meant being brought back handcuffed and 
in fetters, the fugitives being chained together where 
three or four were re-taken at the same time. At Verdun 
re-captured prisoners were usually paraded through the 
streets as a warning to others. The case is on record of 
one officer, a Lieutenant Leviscourt of the Royal Navy, 
being paraded through the fortress not only handcuffed, 
but also with one leg chained to a big cannon-ball, which 
the unfortunate fellow had to drag along. One of the 
cannon-balls so used at Verdun, with its chain — " boulets 
de discipline" they were called — is on view as one of the 
exhibits in the Army Museum at the Invalides in Paris at 
the present day. 

A naval officer, who spent over eight years at Verdun 
as a prisoner, was Lieutenant George Sidney Smith of 
the Royal Navy, a nephew of the celebrated Admiral 
Sir Sidney Smith, the heroic defender of Acre. Taken 
prisoner with the ill-fated Captain Wesley Wright — 
whose fate in the Temple prison in Paris, whether he 
was murdered or driven to suicide after torture, is to this 
day an unsolved mystery — while employed on special 
service of a semi-political nature off the coast of Morbihan 
in 1804, at the time of the Georges Conspiracy against 
the life of Napoleon (then First Consul), he was kept at 
Verdun until the autumn of 1812. Then at length he 
made his escape. It fell to this officer eighteen months 
after that, when a Lieutenant of the frigate Undaunted, 
to come into personal contact with Napoleon during his 
conveyance to Elba ; and the rencontre was a disagreeable 
one on both sides. In Frejus Bay, as the Undaunted' s 
boat was carrying the ex-Emperor out to the ship, 
Napoleon asked the Captain of the frigate, who was 
seated by his side, the name of the Lieutenant in charge 
of the boat. Captain Ussher replied : " Smith ; he is the 
nephew of Sir Sidney Smith." " Sidney Smith ! Sir 
Sidney Smith!" exclaimed Napoleon angrily; and he 
repeated the name three or four times. Then he 


muttered half to himself in a moody tone, " the man 
who made me miss my destiny." Napoleon remained 
silent after that for the rest of the row. 

On board the Undaunted, we are told, during the 
week's voyage, Napoleon one day took occasion to say 
a word to Lieutenant Sidney Smith. It was the only 
time that he spoke to him, although he often spoke to the 
other officers. Napoleon addressed the Lieutenant rather 
morosely, opening the conversation by telling him that 
" he thought very little of Sir Sidney Smith's gunnery 
at Acre, as he fired very badly!" Lieutenant Smith, 
a gruff and rather surly tempered officer, with a strong 
personal antipathy to Napoleon (as he repeatedly told 
his brother officers during the voyage), from his ex- 
periences as a prisoner of war, answered back very tartly. 
" That, sir," he replied, " is exactly what Sir Sidney 
has always said of you !" The reply had the effect 
of making Napoleon turn away sharply. 

And apparently he owed the Lieutenant a grudge for 
it. Every day, we are told, by Napoleon's request one 
or other of the four Lieutenants of the ship dined at the 
Captain's table, seated beside Napoleon. Lieutenant 
Smith took his seat there in turn with the rest, but it 
was remarked that although the ex- Emperor invariably 
talked with the other Lieutenants, he never spoke 
a single word to, or took the slightest notice of, Lieu- 
tenant Smith. 

Captain Wright's first Lieutenant, James Wallis, who 
was made prisoner at the same time with Lieutenant 
Sidney Smith, underwent nine years' captivity at Verdun ; 
until September, 1813, when he, in like manner, made his 

Another naval officer, who was at Verdun for a time 
during 1813, was that splendid fellow and tremendous 
fighter, Captain Nesbit Willoughby. While on shore 
on half-pay, in 1812, he went abroad and joined the 
Russian Army as a volunteer against Napoleon, only, 


how ever, to be taken prisoner in the battle at Polotz, in 
October, 1812, in consequence of his own act of humanity, 
having given up his horse to enable a wounded Russian 
to get safely off the field. As a prisoner Captain 
Willoughby went through some terrible experiences 
during the French retreat, " witnessing," we are told, 
"extraordinary and heart-rending scenes." After that he 
was ordered off to France on parole, being escorted by 
a gendarme as far as Mayence. So far he had been 
treated at least courteously, but from there onwards 
all was changed. At Mayence, because of his having 
told people whom he met on the way across Germany 
of what he had seen of the Moscow disaster, he was 
summarily deprived of his parole and lodged in the 
fortress gaol — in the same cell with three Brunswick 
officers who had been condemned to be shot. Moved on 
to Metz, he was sent thence in the custody of armed 
guards to Verdun, and from there, after three months' 
close detention, to solitary confinement in the dungeons 
of the Chateau de Bouillon, where he passed nine months, 
" daily expecting," as he describes, "the fate of Wesley 
Wright." He was transferred next to another dungeon 
in the fortress of Peronne, twelve miles from St. Quentin 
on the Amiens road, from which place, on the advance 
of the Allies in March, 1814, he finally made his escape 
and rejoined the Russians in time to witness the final 
battle before the gates of Paris. 

In regard to the escapes of British prisoners the best 
known case perhaps is that of Midshipman O'Brien of 
the Hussar, whose adventurous experiences furnished 
Captain Marryat with some of the most striking incidents 
of " Peter Simple." O'Brien's personal narrative of his 
doings and adventures in crossing Europe to the Adriatic 
was first published in 1814, in a long defunct magazine, 
the Naval Chronicle. The even more romantic and 
venturesome escapes and experiences of Lieutenant R. B. 
James, as recorded in his manuscript narrative, have been 


related in detail in this book, told at full length, as written 
down after his final escape while the details were fresh in 
the Lieutenant's recollection. 

Midshipman O'Brien had a part in three attempts to 

The first was an effort to undermine one of the 
dungeons, thirty feet under ground, with hammer and 
chisels. It was proposed to cut a way through the 
rock to the outer face, whence the projectors of the 
enterprise hoped to be able to clamber down over the 
ramparts and upper fortifications with the aid of a rope 
made of sheets and string. The scheme, however, failed 
at the outset. The task of boring a hole through the 
solid rock with the poor implements at the disposal of the 
prisoners proved beyond their pow T ers, and it was given 
up after a short trial. 

In the second venture, O'Brien and a party of midship- 
men and others, all occupants of the same sonterrain, were 
nearly successful. They contrived to burrow a hole 
through the rock, and creep along it to the subterraneous 
passage which has been mentioned as leading beneath the 
fortifications into the open beyond the outworks of the 
fortress. On their way they forced three barriers in 
the tunnel that formed the subterraneous passage. One 
was an iron door, so strongly clamped and barricaded that 
they had to excavate a hole under it, by means of which 
one of the party crawled through and then drew the bolts 
of the door on the further side. Unfortunately, at the 
third door, which was near the exit at the outer end of the 
passage, over-eagerness in forcing back the bolt made a 
noise which was heard by a sentry outside. He gave the 
alarm, and O'Brien and his companions had to scurry 
back to their dungeon and try to escape detection by 
getting into their beds and shamming to be asleep. 

The leaders in the attempt, as far as they could be 
identified — O'Brien, himself, by luck and cool audacity 
contrived to escape discovery — were treated with atrocious 


vindictiveness. They were packed off to Metz, " heavily 
ironed and bound in chains," to go before a court-martial 
there, at whose hands they received sentences appalling 
in their remorseless severity. Five of them were each 
condemned to fifteen years penal servitude as galley 
slaves. One was sentenced to ten years. Four others 
were ordered to the galleys for nine years. 

Fear of reprisals in England when news of the trial 
reached there, however, fortunately for these luckless 
prisoners, prevented the sentences from being carried out. 
Napoleon did not venture to confirm them. They were 
all remitted and the prisoners were sent back to undergo 
increased rigours at Bitche once more. 

It is on record, though, that the monstrous outrage of 
sending prisoners of war to the galleys was perpetrated 
in the case of certain British prisoners of lower rank. 
To take one instance. Two seamen, John Gardner and 
Henry Hudsell by name, were tried by court-martial : 
the former for forging a passport for his shipmate, Hudsell 
for escaping and getting half-way across France by means 
of the forged passport. They were each sentenced to six 
years as galley slaves at Toulon, and the sentences were 
carried out ; the forgery of the passport being laid stress 
on to justify the infliction of the savage penalty. 

In O'Brien's third and successful attempt to escape 
from Bitche, made in September, 1808, nearly a twelve- 
month after the second attempt, he had three companions : 
a brother midshipman named Hewson, a dragoon officer 
in a cavalry regiment of the East India Company's 
service named Batley, and a surgeon named Barklimore. 
The four elected boldly to try and let themselves down 
over the ramparts at night and trust to be able to get 
away across the outer ditch, and so into the open country 
beyond, where they proposed to make for the Rhine, cross 
Bavaria, and get into Austrian territory, finally working 
their way to the Adriatic. 

They secretly made a rope of cloth, obtained ostensibly 


for shirts, which was bound round and frapped with 
twine got in small balls at different times from other 
prisoners allowed to do work as cobblers for men in the 
prison. The rope was made in four lengths, each of from 
twenty-four to thirty feet, and the four prisoners each 
wore a length fastened under their clothes and tied round 
their bodies, until the time came for the attempt to be 

After being once baulked by the suspicious alertness of 
the sentries, on just the night they were waiting for — a 
wild and stormy night with torrents of rain — they at 
length, at seven o'clock p.m. on September 14, 1808, made 
their venture. 

O'Brien, as the leader in the enterprise, went first; 
stealthily leaving the dungeon and crossing the barrack- 
yard. He took with him a couple of long boot-hooks and 
the four lengths of the rope all joined together in one, 
"tightly wound in a ball and concealed in a pocket- 
handkerchief." So slight and frail was the apparatus 
to which the daring fellows proposed to entrust their 
lives. His intention was to loop one end of the rope 
round one of the spiked palisades at the foot of the upper 
ramparts, and then let the rest of the rope drop down 
from the uppermost of the three walls to the second wall 
below. To get to the palisades he had to pass close to a 
sentry-box, walking boldly in front of the soldier posted 

" It was just dusk," relates O'Brien, " and I was to take 
six minutes on the forlorn hope, as it might justly be 
termed, to fix our rope to a palisade and to descend the 
first rampart, before Mr. Hewson followed, who was next 
on the list. I passed the sentinel quite close, and could 
see him leaning over his musket. He never moved, though 
I met his eye, probably taking me for one of the guards, 
and I arrived, providentially, at the spot fixed upon to 
make fast the rope, which I very soon accomplished, and 
was just in the act of descending when my friend Hewson 


arrived. In a few minutes, to my inexpressible satisfaction, 
we were all four at the bottom of the first wall. Our prin- 
cipal object being now accomplished, we congratulated 
each other. We had two walls yet to descend ; the heights, 
as I have already mentioned, being respectively from 
go to 100, from 40 to 50, and the third from 25 to 30 feet. 
We all clapped on to the rope, and crawled up with our 
feet against the wall, until we got a good height. We 
then swung off together, when the rope broke, and we fell 
upon one another, leaving in our hands enough to enable 
us to descend the next rampart. We made this piece fast 
to one of the upper stones of the embrasure, and again 
descended. We had now to repeat our haul upon the 
rope, and it again broke, leaving a piece of sufficient 
length for our future purpose, the descent of the third and 
last rampart. 

" We had taken the precaution of providing two long 
boot-hooks to stick in the wall, to make our rope fast to, 
in case we should find no other means of securing it. 
These proved of the greatest use in getting down the 
third rampart. In fact, had we not had them with us, 
we must have surrendered ourselves, for not one single 
means could we find of fastening the rope to anything, 
and to drop from a height of 30 feet might have been 
destruction. The boot-hooks served our purpose : we were 
at the bottom of the third wall ; and all that we had now 
to do was to pass the outer sentinels, who were few in 
number and rather slack in vigilance, perhaps from the 
supposed impossibility of any prisoner effecting an escape 
in this direction. We had, in fact, let ourselves down 
by this frail rope a total height of about from 180 to 
200 feet. 

" At the bottom of the third rampart we remained in 
the fosse or ditch; and we had to watch the turn of the 
sentinel that was pacing immediately before us. As soon 
as his back was fairly turned we ascended the scarp of the 
ditch, and gently rolled ourselves down the slope or glacis. 


In a few minutes, with our hearts rebounding with joyous 
emotions, we were on the road to Strasburg, on which we 
continued running as fast as we possibly could for nearly 
an hour. We then halted to put on our shoes, which we 
had hung round our necks as we rolled down the glacis, 
as we had found it more secure to descend the walls with- 
out shoes than with them, the feet being much more 

O'Brien adds this as the finale of the successful 
enterprise : 

" We now turned round to take, as we hoped, a final 
view of the ' Mansion of Tears,' the name that had been 
so often given to this detestable fortress by the unfor- 
tunate prisoners, many of whom had shed an abundance, 
or showers, of them within its horrid cells and dungeons. 
We spontaneously returned our thanks to Almighty God 
for our deliverance, and shook each other cordially by the 
hand, overwhelmed with exultation at our almost miraculous 
success. When we looked at the stupendous height of 
the rock and fortress, it seemed as if a miracle alone could 
have enabled us to descend them, suspended by so light 
and ill-made a cord as that which we had been able to 
construct out of our shirt-linen and a little cobbler's 
twine !" 

The story of the adventures which befell the four 
fugitives from Bitche in getting through Bavaria and 
Austria, their escapes, hardships, and breakdowns by the 
way, do not come within our limits here. All four in the 
end got safely through, although not all together. 

Lord Blayney relates this of the fate that befell several 
prisoners in some of the attempts to escape from Bitche 
which failed, and the atrocious ferocity and vindictiveness 
with which the unfortunate victims were treated : 

" Four midshipmen . . . escaped by excavating a depth 
of seventy feet until they arrived at a subterraneous passage 
which leads from the fort to the neighbouring woods, and 
is three leagues in length. 


" This successful attempt some time after induced the 
whole of the prisoners to make a similar one, and each 
was sworn to secrecy and perseverance. In a few days 
they arrived at the subterraneous passage, but there were 
still three wooden doors and an iron one to be forced 
before they could gain the outside of the fort. These 
obstacles were also overcome, and the moment of accom- 
plishment had just arrived, when one of the prisoners, 
a Jersey man named Williams, waited on the Com- 
mandant, to whom he discovered the whole plot. 

" The Commandant, with a degree of ferocity without 
excuse because without necessity, ordered a guard of 
veteran soldiers to be placed at the spot where the 
prisoners were to evulge from their gloomy abode, with 
orders not to fire until a dozen at least were on the 
outside. These orders were exactly obeyed : the whole 
were shot dead, and their bodies exposed in the yard of 
the fort ! 

" This, indeed," continues the General, " was not by 
many the only instance of prisoners being killed in a cruel 
and wanton manner. Among the most lamented was 
Mr. Thomas Thomson, mate of His Majesty's cutter the 
Dove, who was run through the body with a bayonet by 
a sentinel who quitted his post, sixty yards off, for the 

Says Midshipman O'Brien, speaking of his detention 
at Givet on his arrival as a prisoner in France : " During 
our stay at this depot four of the seamen escaped from 
their prison, two of whom belonged to our late frigate. 
On their being missed the following morning, parties of 
gendarmes on horseback were despatched by the Com- 
mandant to search for them in all directions, with strict 
orders to mutilate, and, in fact, not to bring them back 
alive, in order that " (in Petervin's own words), " it might 
prove an example to the rest of the prisoners. However," 
as O'Brien tells, "fortunately for those poor fellows, they 
escaped their pursuers — at least, for that time. They 


were afterwards taken at Dunkirk, as they were about to 
embark in an open boat." 

A similar abominable atrocity, it would appear, indeed, 
was ordered on at least one occasion. Midshipman 
O'Brien relates this as having been told him on his being 
brought back to Bitche after his first attempt to escape 
from that place : " I was informed by one of the gendarmes 
that on the day after I had escaped their commanding 
officer had issued strict orders to the men of his corps, 
who had been despatched to scour the woods and the 
country in search of me, that, in the event of their finding 
me, they were to scar and disfigure me with their sabres 
au front et au visage, and to mutilate me in such a manner 
as would prove an example to deter, in future, any British 
prisoner of war from attempting to escape. This circum- 
stance I heard frequently repeated afterwards by others 
of the same corps." 

" Upon my putting the question to them," O'Brien says 
further, " whether, in the event of falling in with me, they 
would have actually put in execution these injunctions, 
some made an evasive reply and hesitated, while others, 
more candid, acknowledged that they would have been 
obliged to obey their orders a la lettre, and that, of course, 
they would have been directed to state, in justification of 
such conduct, that they had no alternative as I would not 
surrender, but resisted most desperately." 

" Lieutenant Essel of the Navy and fourteen others had 
prepared a rope to descend the formidable wall of the fort. 
It was well secured and sufficiently strong, but, as 
descending one at a time would have caused too much 
delay, the whole fifteen determined to descend at once. 
This plan, however, was discovered to a veteran officer, 
who waited patiently until all these unfortunate young 
men were on the rope. Then, to the shame of humanity, 
he cut it. Several were dashed to pieces, and their 
mutilated bodies exposed, while none escaped without a 
broken limb." 


"Six of them," Midshipman O'Brien relates again 
of an attempt that he was told of, " had broken out of 
their cave, had got a rope made of sheets, and were on the 
point of lowering themselves down, when they were dis- 
covered and an alarm given, which made four of them 
clap on the rope together, though only strong enough to 
lower one at a time, or two at most : the rope in conse- 
quence broke. One was dashed to pieces, and the three 
others . . . were so severely mangled and bruised that 
little hopes were at first entertained of their recovery. 
The remaining two were seized by the guards in the 

This act of cold-blooded atrocity, to conclude, com- 
mitted on an escaping British prisoner, took place at Givet, 
when a midshipman named Hayward was deliberately 
murdered by one of the local gendarmes while trying to 
escape. A fellow midshipman tells in these words the 
story of poor Hayward's fate : 

" This gallant fellow, with his friend Gale, had 

broken out of prison in the face of the day and fled 

. into the country. Unfortunately they were discovered, 

; and the alarm given. Two horse gendarmes immediately 

' pursued, and overtook them in an open field. On their 

approach, Hayward being unarmed, and seeing escape 

; impossible, stood still, extending his arms, and exclaiming: 

i'Je me rends;" but this was too favourable an oppor- 

: tunitv to be neglected for the savage gratification of 

! shedding human blood. Neither the defenceless state 

' of the individual, nor his prompt surrender, could avert 

! the merciless miscreants from plunging their swords into 

his manly chest and mangling the body in a horrible 

; manner. It was afterwards taken into the prison yard, 

stripped naked, and exposed to the view of the prisoners 

for the purpose of intimidating others from the like 

attempt. Gale gave himself up at the same time, but 

: although he received severe wounds, they did not prove 

mortal. It will scarcely be credited," adds the recorder 


of the tragedy, "that the Commandant gave the per- 
petrators of this outrageous exploit a pecuniary reward, 
saying : ' I give you this for having killed one of them ; 
had you killed both, the reward would have been 
doubled !' " 

We come next to two personal narratives of successful 
escapes from Valenciennes and Bitche, as described in 
detail by the daring young officers who planned and 
conducted the enterprises. 


ONE of the most daring and adventurous escapes was 
carried out from Valenciennes in November, 1808, 
by a midshipman named Edward Boyes, together with 
three brother mids, named Hunter, Whitehurst, and 
Mansell. They had been prisoners for five years ; for 
most of the time in detention at Verdun, without being 
able to meet with an opportunity of escape. 

Midshipman Boyes, who wrote the story of the escape 
a few months afterwards, while on board ship on the 
West Indies Station, was taken prisoner at the outset 
of the war, at the beginning of September, 1803 — while 
serving in the Mediterranean in Phcebe, one of Nelson's 
frigates watching Toulon. He was in charge of a prize, 
a coaster laden with fruit, which had been taken by the 
Phoebe off Cape Sicie, near Toulon, and was on his way 
with the refreshing cargo for distribution among the crews 
of Nelson's main fleet, then cruising off the coast of 
Catalonia, on the Spanish side of the Gulf of Lions, when 
some French men-of-war appeared on the scene. They 
retook the prize, and a second coaster which had been 
captured, the Phoebe herself only getting clear with diffi- 

A British sloop-of-war, the Redbridge, with a transport 
in her company, were also swooped down on in the same 
neighbourhood that afternoon, and in like manner carried 
off by the French into Toulon. 

Midshipman Boyes, with two other midshipmen named 
17 257 


Murray and Whitehurst, the Lieutenant in command of 
the Redbridge, and six other midshipmen, together with 
the Master of the transport and ninety seamen, were 
landed at Toulon and marched inland as far as Toulouse. 
There they were kept in captivity for nearly three months, 
the officers being allowed parole in the city, until 
December 2, when all were assembled in a convoy, and 
set off on a long tramp across France to Verdun, escorted 
as usual by gendarmes. 

In the account that he wrote of his captivity and subse- 
quent adventures during his escape, Midshipman Boyes 
says this of his arrival at Verdun : "Upon being escorted 
to the citadel, certain regulations, as the conditions of my 
parole, were given to me for perusal. These I signed ; 
permission was then given me to retire into the town, 
where I took lodgings suitable to my finances." 

This was how Midshipman Boyes came to leave Verdun 
and be transferred to Valenciennes, where he found the 
opportunity for effecting his escape : 

" In July, 1808, three midshipmen were taken in the 
very act of violating their parole. This afforded Wirion 
an opportunity of representing the whole class (including 
warrant-officers and masters of merchant vessels) as ' con- 
tumacious and refractory.' He further assured the Minister 
of War that nothing but extreme rigour and close confine- 
ment could ensure the persons of these ' tres mauvais sujets,' 
and that Verdun was inadequate to their security. The 
result was an order for the whole class to be removed, 
and on August 7, on going to the afternoon ' appel,' we 
were arrested, to the number of 142, and sent to the 

" The previous occurrence of similar events, though on 
a minor scale as to numbers, warned us to prepare for an 
early departure ; but not a word to that effect escaped the 
commanding officer until late at night. 

" At dawn of day the drum summoned us to muster. 
We were drawn up in two ranks : one of seventy-three 


destined for Valenciennes and Givet, the other of sixty-nine 
for Sarrelouis and other depots to the eastward. The 
northern expedition being ready, we were placed, two by 
two, upon bundles of straw, in five waggons, and set out, 
escorted by the greater part of the Horse Gendarmerie of 
the district, aided by infantry. 

" My most intimate friend and brother-midshipman, 
Moyes, was of the party, and we had agreed to avail our- 
selves of the first opportunity to decamp ; this, however, 
appeared almost hopeless. In the evening we arrived at 
Stenay, having travelled about twenty miles. . . . Parole 
had, hitherto, tended to reconcile me to captivity ; but 
being now deprived of that honourable confidence, and 
feeling my pride wounded at the oppressive act of punish- 
ing the innocent for the guilty, no obstacle could avert my 
intention of finally executing what I now felt a duty ; and 
it was cheering to find, in these feelings, my friend most 
cordially participated." 

Having planned their scheme as well as they could 
manage, Midshipmen Boyes and Moyes kept on the alert 
for an opportunity, but every time they were baulked. 
After that, on their arrival at Mezieres they were separated 
— one having to go among the prisoners ordered to 
Valenciennes, and the other to Givet. 

Midshipman Boyes and his party were sent on to Valen- 
ciennes, where they arrived on August 17. They were 
conducted with great show by their escort to the citadel, 
their future quarters, where, in the barracks, there were 
already some fourteen hundred British prisoners, soldiers 
and sailors. The midshipmen in the party, General 
Wirion's " tres mauvais snjets," it was announced were to 
be treated on the same terms as the soldiers and sailors. 
Their parole was withdrawn and no distinction whatever 
permitted, except that at certain hours the midshipmen 
were allowed to walk on the ramparts of the citadel facing 
the town. 

The portion of the citadel where they were allowed to 


walk, had two gates — the northern gate leading to the 
Upper Citadel, the southern opening on to the town. At 
each gate there was a strong guard. In addition, through 
the western rampart, there was a small sally-port which 
led into an outwork, and from that into a garden, forming 
a triangle of about half an acre, where the River Escaut 
branched off into two streams, with a narrow canal pass- 
ing between the citadel and the ravelin. 

"Through this sally-port," says Midshipman Boyes, "it 
was my intention to make an attempt to escape, that 
appearing the weakest part. I meant to swim across the 
river and take my clothes in an umbrella prepared for the 
occasion. Some few days elapsed before I ventured to 
communicate my intentions to any one. Then I broached 
the subject to a brother-midshipman, named Ricketts, 
who readily entered into my views, and was willing to 
assist me in any way, but, from the most honourable 
motives, declined joining. A messmate named Cadell 
also declined. I then sounded several other midshipmen 
without success. In this state of suspense day after day 
elapsed, till September 4, when I applied to one whose 
name was Hunter. He approved of my plans and 
appeared gratified that I had selected him as a com- 
panion. It was agreed that we should start on the 14th, 
intending, by means of pick-locks, to get through the 
sally-port. I was the more sanguine from the circum- 
stance of there being no sentinel at that door. 

" The 14th arrived, everything wearing a favourable 
aspect, and the hour of 10 was appointed for the attempt ; 
but about 4 p.m. Hunter surprised me by signifying his 
determination to postpone it until the spring, as from the 
season of the year he foresaw innumerable difficulties, and 
deemed success impossible. In this dilemma I became 
almost frantic, for, from so untimely and unexpected a 
secession, I doubted in whom to confide. 

" My brother-officers getting intimation of my intention, 
whispered it about from one to the other, until it became 


a topic of general conversation. At length it reached the 
ears of the police, and, in consequence of this, I was so 
closely watched that all my prospects for the present were 
blasted. The only way to remove their suspicions was 
perfect tranquillity for some time; and to divert the atten- 
tion of the police I sent to Verdun for my clothes and 
dogs, which I had left there to avoid encumbrances on 
the road to Valenciennes. I should not neglect to mention 
that a sentinel was now placed at the before-mentioned 
sally - port, and stricter orders issued throughout the 

" The midshipmen began to manifest impatience at the 
continuance of their 'durance vile,' and after several fruit- 
less applications to the Commandant drew up a letter to 
the Minister of War, requesting restoration to parole, 
one sentence of which insured a flat denial, as it plainly 
intimated that a refusal would be attended with escape. 
A few days after I was delighted to learn that the 
Minister's answer was confined to a simple negative. 

" 1 kept up a correspondence, per post, with my friend 
Moves. It was my wish that he should make interest to 
be sent to Valenciennes, such removals being sometimes 
effected through the application of our own officers. 
Finding there was no probability of a junction, and all 
suspicion being at length removed, I again commenced 
sounding those around me, when I found an opening 
to make a proposal to a midshipman named Kochfort, 
and he came into it immediately. The strictest secrecy 
was observed, and we determined to be seldom seen 
together, although the most perfect harmony and cordiality 
prevailed between us, and I may add, an implicit con- 
fidence in mutual support. 

" With the assistance of Ricketts and Cadell, our pre- 
parations were completed, and October 15 was fixed for 
our departure. I was the more anxious to carry our plans 
into execution so soon as matured because the Com- 
mandant, with unremitting diligence, was daily visiting 


the citadel and as frequently changing the posts of the 
sentinels and issuing stricter regulations for the security of 
the prisoners. 

" There still being a sentinel at the sally-port, my first 
plan was changed to that of getting into the Upper 
Citadel, which could only be effected by creeping upon 
the parapet above the North Gate, letting ourselves down 
upon the bridge over the canal, and passing through the 
ravelin. But, being unacquainted with those parts of the 
fortifications, we intended to risk all and trust to Provi- 
dence for deliverance. . . . By the friendly aid of a 
detenu residing in the town we procured provisions, a 
map of the Northern Department, and several other 
necessaries almost indispensable on such an expedition. 
The only thing now wanting was a rope, which we 
obtained by purchasing skipping lines of the French boys, 
this being a general amusement amongst them at this 

" About five p.m. on the day fixed for our departure, I 
was walking with Ricketts and discussing the proposed 
plans, which were then ripe for execution, when Cadell 
came up and told us that Rochfort had just been seized 
with headache and fever, so violent as to require his being 
immediately put to bed. This I could not credit, until 
made an eye-witness of the fact. Struck with astonish- 
ment I gazed on the sufferer, and, scarcely able to ask 
a question, stole into the yard absorbed in thought and 
perplexity, not cherishing the faintest hope of finding 
another in the citadel to join with me. I wandered 
about for some time reflecting on this extraordinary 
occurrence, little suspicious of what was afterwards 
developed, that, from our total ignorance of the impedi- 
ments in passing into the Upper Citadel, failure and 
its attendant consequences must have been the result 
of trial at this time. My mind, however, was not to be 
diverted from the object in view ; and no sooner had 
I roused myself from the effect of this disheartening 


event than I began to meditate new schemes. I was 
resolved on the attempt coute que coiite, but hesitated 
whether to await Rochfort's recovery or to look out 
for another companion. 

" Day after day passed in this state of suspense, when, 
finding no amendment in his health, he was liberal 
enough to advise my seeking a helpmate among the 
seamen. He became so reduced by his illness, that, 
even if he did recover, he dared not risk exposure to 
night chills for a considerable time. It was, therefore, 
with extreme reluctance that I abandoned the hope of 
his company. I then went to several of the most steady 
quarter-masters and other petty officers, without success. 
Whether they doubted the possibility of escape, or were 
deterred by the recollection of the barbarous murders 
at Bitche, I cannot say. It was known, that when 
the Commandant of that place had gained intimation 
of an intended attempt, he suffered the fugitives to reach 
a certain point, where the gendarmes were concealed, 
ready to rush in, and murder them. Two sailors, named 
Marshall and Cox, fell victims to this refined system of 
Republican discipline." 

It was in consequence of this incident at Valenciennes 
apparently that the project of escape came to be taken up 

" In the beginning of November two sailors were 
sparring in the yard, and so common was this amuse- 
ment, that it attracted the notice of no one but a stupid 
conscript of a sentinel, who, fancying they were quarrel- 
ling, quitted his post and commenced a brutal attack 
on them with the butt-end of his musket. This breach 
of military discipline soon collected a mob, and the 
endeavours of the men to ward off the blows gave them 
the appearance of acting offensively. The guard was 
called out, when the gendarmes, rushing through the 
crowd, cut and slashed on all sides. Whitehurst and 
I, happening to be there at the time, roused with in- 


dignation at such wanton barbarity, also pushed in, in 
the hope of preventing bloodshed. The marechal des logis, 
observing us in the melee, desired us to send the men 
to their rooms, who, on the order being given, im- 
mediately retired. This prompt obedience, bearing the 
appearance of generally acting under our influence, was, 
no doubt, the cause of our being denounced as the 
authors of the disturbance. 

" The next morning, we were arrested and conducted 
to a separate place of confinement, upon the rampart 
facing the town. We were there locked up with a 
sentinel at the door, without communication with anyone, 
and ordered to be kept on bread and water. We there 
received secret information, that the Commandant had 
forwarded a report to the Minister of War, representing 
us as chefs de complot, the punishment of which, by the 
Code NapoUon, is death. Although this did not much 
trouble us, being conscious of the falsehood of the accusa- 
tion, yet we judged it right to lay before the Com- 
mandant a firm and accurate relation of the facts, re- 
ferring him to the marechal des logis for proof of our 
interference having prevented more bloodshed, and re- 
stored tranquillity. 

" This respectful appeal to the justice of the Com- 
mandant, corroborated by the evidence of the marechal, 
succeeded in restoring us to our comrades and in inducing 
him to transmit a counter-statement to Paris. I mention 
this circumstance because it produced a proposition on 
the part of Whitehurst to attempt escape as soon as 
we could make the necessary preparations. 1 readily 
accepted his proposal ; and, although I knew that from 
his inexperience in the management of small craft, his 
assistance, in the event of getting afloat, could not be 
great, I was perfectly convinced of his willingness and 
resolution. This consideration rendered it necessary, 
however, to seek a third person, and I sounded five men 
separately, in the course of the day ; but, so prevalent 


was the belief of the impossibility of getting out of the 
fortress, except by bribery, that they all declined. 

" In this difficulty I consulted Ricketts, who proposed 
to introduce the subject again to Hunter. I consented to 
accept him as a companion, provided we took our departure 
in a week. This stipulation being conveyed to him, and 
our prospects painted in glowing colours, he agreed to 
join us. From that moment he behaved with firmness 
and cordiality : not an hour was lost in procuring every- 
thing needful for the occasion. But before we fixed a 
day we resolved to obtain some information respecting 
the obstacles in our passage to the Upper Citadel, that 
being the only way by which we could escape. It was 
necessary to be very cautious in this particular, and many 
schemes were suggested. 

" At length, hearing that part of the fortifications 
abounded in wild rabbits, it occurred to me to offer my 
greyhounds to one of the gendarmes whenever he chose 
to make use of them. This I did, and the fellow men- 
tioned it to the marechal dcs logis, who was equally pleased 
with the expectation of sport. They very nearly believed 
that such beautiful English dogs could kill every rabbit 
they saw. Shortly after the gendarme came, with the 
keys in his hand for them, the marechal waiting at the 
gate. The dogs, however, had been taught to follow no 
one but their master, so that their refusing to go afforded 
me an opportunity of offering to accompany them, which 
was immediately accepted. Whitehurst, Hunter, and two 
( or three others, requested permission to go with us; four 
i other gendarmes were ordered to attend, and we went in 
.a tolerably large party. We took different directions round 
the ramparts, kicking the grass, under pretence of looking 
for rabbits. Few were found, and none killed ; but we 
jsucceeded in making our observations, and, in about half 
an hour, returned, fully satisfied of the practicability of 
escape, though the difficulties we had to encounter were — 
■scaling a wall, ascending the rampart unseen, escaping the 


observations of three tiers of sentinels and the patrols, 
descending two ramparts of about 45 feet each, and 
forcing two large locks. These were not more than we 
expected, and we therefore prepared accordingly. 

" On our return we fixed the night of November 15 for 
the attempt. Through a friend in town I got iron handles 
put to a pair of steel boot-hooks, intending to use them as 
pick-locks. The only thing now wanting was another 
rope, and as that belonging to the well in our yard was 
not trustworthy, we hacked several of the heart-yarns, so 
that the first time it was used it broke. A subscription 
was made by the mids, and a new rope applied for : by 
these means we had at command about 36 feet, in addi- 
tion to what our friends had before purchased of the boys. 
Everything was now prepared : the spirits and provisions, 
in knapsacks, were concealed in the dog-kennel. On the 
14th Whitehurst communicated the secret to a young mid 
named Mansell, who immediately proposed to join. 

" At length the day arrived which I so ardently desired, 
and the feelings of delight with which I hailed it were 
such as allowed me to anticipate none but the happiest 
results. The thought of having lost so many years from 
the service of my country during an active war had 
frequently embittered hours which otherwise would have 
been cheerful and merry, and now proved a stimulant to 
perseverance, exceeded only by that which arose from the 
desire I felt to impress upon the minds of Frenchmen the 
inefficacy of vigilance and severity to enchain a British 
officer, when compared with that milder and more certain 
mode of securing his person — confiding in his honour!" 

The night of November 15, however, was too clear for 
the purpose — bright starlight. Midshipman Boyes was 
willing to risk going out, but Cadell and Ricketts were 
against it, and had some difficulty in persuading Boyes to 
defer his departure until the next night, in the hope that 
it would he darker then. 

" In the afternoon," says Boyes, "we amused ourselves 


with writing a letter to the Commandant, in which we 
thanked him for his civilities, and assured him that it was 
the rigid and disgraceful methods of the French Govern- 
ment which obliged us to prove the inefficacy of locks, 
bolts, and fortresses ; and that, if he wished to detain 
British officers, the most effectual method was to put 
them upon their honour, for that alone was the bond 
which had enchained us for more than five years. This 
letter was left with Ricketts, to be dropped the following 
day near the ' Corps de garde.' 

" At half-past seven p.m. we assembled, armed with 
clasp-knives, and each provided with a paper of fine 
pepper, upon which we placed our chief dependence. In 
case of being closely attacked, we intended throwing a 
handful into the eyes of the assailants and running away. 
The plan was that Hunter and myself were to depart first, 
fix the rope and open the opposing doors ; a quarter of an 
hour afterwards Whitehurst and Mansell were to follow. 
By these means we diminished the risk attendant on so 
large a body as four moving together, and secured the 
advantage of each depending more upon his own care ; 
for if Hunter and myself were shot in the advance, the 
other two would remain in safety ; and if, on the contrary, 
they were discovered, we hoped to have time during the 
alarm to gain the country. 

" Our intentions were to make for the seaside, and range 
the coast to Breskins, in the Island of Cadsand opposite 
Flushing. If means of getting afloat were not found 
before arriving at that place, we proposed to embark in 
the passage-boat for Flushing, and about mid-channel 
rise and seize the vessel. It was now blowing very fresh, 
and was so dark and cloudy that not a star could be seen ; 
the leaves were falling in abundance, and as they were 
blown over the stones, kept up a constant rustling noise 
which was particularly favourable to the enterprise. 

" Indeed, things wore so promising an appearance, that 
we resolved to take leave of a few other of our brother- 


officers. Eight of them were accordingly sent for. To 
these I detailed our exact situation, the difficulties we had 
to contend with, and the means of surmounting them. I 
reminded them of our letter to the Commandant of last 
month, and the glory of putting our threats into execution, 
in spite of the increased vigilance, and read the one we 
had that afternoon written. I proposed that any of them 
should follow that chose, but with this stipulation : that 
they allowed four hours to elapse before they made the 
attempt. Upon which, it being a quarter-past eight, 
Hunter and myself, with woollen socks over our shoes, 
that our footsteps might not be heard, and each having a 
rope, a small poker or a stake, and a knapsack, took leave 
of our friends and departed. 

" We first went into the backyard, and assisted by 
Rochfort, who was now convalescent but not sufficiently 
strong to join the party, got over the wall and passed 
through the garden and palisades. We crossed the road 
and climbed silently upon our hands and knees up the 
bank at the back of the north guard-room ; lying perfectly 
still as the sentinels approached, and as they receded, 
again advancing until we reached the parapet over the 
gateway leading to the Upper Citadel. Here the breast- 
work, over which we had to creep, was about five feet 
high and fourteen thick ; and, it being the highest part 
of the citadel, we were in danger of being seen by several 
sentinels below. But fortunately the cold, bleak wind 
induced some of them to take shelter in their boxes. 

" With the utmost precaution we crept upon the summit, 
and down the breastwork towards the outer edge of the 
rampart, when the sentinel made his quarter-hourly cry of 
' Sentinelle, prenez garde a vous,' similar to our ' All's 
well.' This, though it created for a moment rather an 
unpleasant sensation, convinced me that we had reached 
thus far unobserved. I then forced the poker into the 
earth, and by rising and falling with nearly my whole 
weight, hammered it down with my chest. About two 


feet behind, I did the same with the stake, fastening a 

small line from the upper part of the poker to the lower 

part of the stake. This done, we made the well-rope 

secure round the poker and gently let it down through one 

1 of the grooves in the rampart, which receives a beam of 

, the drawbridge when up. I then cautiously descended 

J this half-chimney, as it were, by the rope. When I had 

1 reached about two-thirds of the way down part of a brick 

fell, struck against the side, and rebounded against my 

■ chest : this I luckily caught between my knees, and carried 

idown without noise. I crossed the bridge and waited 

ifor Hunter, who descended with equal care and silence. 

" We then entered the ravelin, proceeded through the 

arched passage, which formed an obtuse angle with a 

1 massive door leading to the Upper Citadel, and, with my 

j picklock, endeavoured to open it. Not finding the bolt 

'yield with gentle pressure, I added the other hand, and 

gradually increased the force until I exerted my whole 

'strength; when suddenly something broke. I then tried 

to file the catch of the bolt, but that being cast-iron the 

'file made no impression. We then endeavoured to cut 

j away the stone wall which receives the bolt, but that was 

'fortified with a bar of iron, which rendered our attempt 

abortive; the picklocks were again applied, but with no 

: better success. 

" It now appeared 'complete check-mate'; and, as the 

:last resource, it was proposed to return to the bridge, slip 

idown the piles, and float along the canal on our backs; 

: there being too little water to swim, and too much to ford 

lit. In the midst of our consultation, it occurred to me, 

that it would be possible to undermine the gate. This 

plan was no sooner proposed than commenced ; but 

having no other implements than our pocket-knives, some 

time elapsed before we could indulge any reasonable hopes 

1 of success; the pavement stones under the door were 

! about ten inches square and so closely bound together 

that it was a most difficult and very tedious process. 


" About a quarter of an hour had been thus employed, 
when we were alarmed by a sudden noise, similar to the 
distant report of a gun, echoing in tremulous reverbera- 
tions through the arched passage. As the sound became 
fainter, it resembled the cautious opening of the Great 
Gate, creating a belief that we were discovered. We 
jumped up, and drew back towards the bridge, intending, if 
possible, to steal past the gendarmes, and slip down the 
piles into the canal ; but the noise subsiding, we stood 
still, fancying we heard the footsteps of a body of men. 
The recollection of the barbarous murders at Bitche, on a 
similar occasion, instantly presented itself to my sensitive 
imagination. It is impossible to describe the conflicting 
sensations which rushed upon my mind during this awful 
pause. Fully impressed with the conviction of discovery 
and of our falling immediate victims to the merciless rage 
of ferocious blood-hounds, I stood and listened, with my 
knife in savage grasp, waiting the dreadful issue. Then 
suddenly I felt a glow flash through my veins which 
hurried me on with the desperate determination to suc- 
ceed or make a sacrifice of life in the attempt. 

" We had scarcely reached the turning when footsteps 
were again heard ; and, in a whispering tone, ' Boyes !' 
This welcome sound created so sudden a transition from 
desperation to serenity, from despair to a pleasing convic- 
tion of success, that in an instant all was hope and joy. 
Reinforced by our two friends we again returned to our 
work of mining with as much cheerfulness and confidence 
as though already embarked for England. They told us 
the noise was occasioned by the fall of a knapsack, which 
Mansell, unable to carry down the rope, had given to 
Whitehurst, from whom it slipped, and falling upon a 
hollow-sounding bridge between two lofty ramparts echoed 
through the arched passage with sufficient effect to excite 

" Three of us continued mining until half-past ten, when 
the first stone was raised, and in twenty minutes more the 


second. About eleven, the hole was big enough to allow 
us to creep under the door. The drawbridge was up : 
there was, however, sufficient space to allow us to climb 
up, and it being square, there was, of course, an opening 
in the arch. Through this we crept, lowering ourselves 
down by the line, which was passed over the chain of the 
bridge ; and keeping both parts in our hands, landed on 
the garde-fous (two iron bars, one above the other, sus- 
pended by chains on each side of the bridge, when down, 
serving the purpose of handrails). Had the bars been 
taken away escape would have been impossible, there not 
being sufficient line for descending into the ditch. We 
then proceeded through another arched passage, with the 
intention of undermining the second door; but to our 
great surprise and joy, we found it unlocked. We now got 
down, crossed the ditch upon the garde-fous, landed in the 
Upper Citadel, proceeded to the north-east curtain, fixed 
the stake, and fastened the rope. 

" As I was getting down, with my chest against the edge 
of the parapet, the stake gave way. Whitehurst, who was 
sitting by it, snatched hold of the rope and Mansell of his 
coat, whilst I was endeavouring to grasp the grass, by 
which I was saved from a fall of about fifty feet. Fortu- 
nately, there was a solitary tree in the citadel, from which 
we cut a second stake; and the rope being doubly secured, 
we all got down safe with our knapsacks, except White- 
hurst, who, when about two-thirds of the way, from placing 
his feet against the rampart, and not letting them slip so 
fast as his hands, got himself in nearly a horizontal 
position. Seeing his danger, I seized the rope, and 
placed myself in rather an inclined posture under him : 
he fell upon my arm and shoulder with a violent shock ; 
fortunately neither of us was hurt. 

" We all shook hands, and in the excess of joy heartily 
congratulated ourselves upon this providential success, 
after a most perilous and laborious work of three hours 
and three-quarters. Having put our knapsacks a little in 


order, we mounted the glacis and followed a footpath 
which led to the eastward. Bat a few minutes elapsed 
before several objects were observed on the ground, which 
imagination, ever on the alert, metamorphosed into gen- 
darmes in ambush : we, however, marched on, when, to 
our no small relief, they were discovered to be cattle. 

" Gaining the high road, we passed (two and two, about 
forty paces apart) through a very long village, and having 
travelled three or four miles, felt ourselves so excessively 
thirsty that we stopped to drink at a ditch. In the act of 
stooping, a sudden flash of lightning from the southward 
so frightened us (supposing it to be the alarm-gun) that, 
instead of waiting to drink, we ran for nearly half an hour. 
We stopped a second time, and were startled by a second 
flash, which alarmed us even more than the first, for we 
could not persuade ourselves it was lightning, though no 
report was heard. 

" Following up the road in quick march, our attention 
was suddenly arrested by a drawbridge, which being in- 
dicative of a fortified place, we expected a guard-house to 
be close at hand. We were at first apprehensive of meet- 
ing with a serious impediment; but observing the gates to 
be open, we concluded that those at the other extremity 
would be also open, and therefore pushed forward. We 
drank at the pump in the square, when it was recollected 
that this was the little town of St. Amand. Directing our 
course by the North Star, which was occasionally visible, 
we passed through without seeing a creature. 

" About an hour after, still continuing a steady pace, 
four stout fellows rushed out from behind a hedge and 
demanded where we were going. Whitehurst and Mansell 
immediately ran up ; and as we had previously resolved 
never to be taken by equal numbers, each seized his 
pepper and his knife, in preparation for fight or flight, 
replying in a haughty tone of defiance : ' What is that 
to you ? Be careful how you interrupt military men !' 
Then we whispered loud enough for them to hear, 'La 


bayonettej upon which they dropped astern, though still 
keeping near us. In the course of a quarter of an hour, 
on turning an angle of the road, we lost sight of them. 
We continued a rapid march, frequently running, until 
about 5 a.m., when we were unexpectedly stopped by 
the closed gates of a town. We retraced our steps a short 
distance in the hope of discovering some other road ; but 
we could find neither a footpath, nor wood, nor any other 
place of concealment. 

" We quitted the highroad and drew towards a rising 
ground, there to await the dawn of day, in the hope of 
retreating to some neighbouring copse. No sooner had 
we laid ourselves upon the ground than sleep overcame 
us. Our intention was, if no wood could be seen, to go 
to an adjoining ploughed field and there scratch a hole in 
which we could hide ourselves from a distant view. 

" Upon awakening from a short slumber, we reconnoitred 
the ground, and found our position to be near a fortification. 
Being well acquainted with such places, we approached in 
the hope of finding an asylum. At break of day we de- 
scended into the ditch, and found the entrance into the 
subterraneous works of the covered way nearly all blocked 
up with ruins and bushes. An opening, however, was 
made; we crept in, our quarters were established, and the 
rubbish and bushes replaced in the space of a few minutes. 
This most providential and pleasing discovery, added to 
our many escapes from detection, excited a feeling of 
gratitude to that Omnipotent Being Who, in His infinite 
mercy, had thus cast His protecting wings around us. 

" I have since heard that the first intimation of our 

departure at Valenciennes was at dawn of day, when, on 

opening the north gate, the rope was seen suspended from 

the parapet. The roll to muster was instantly beaten, 

and the alarm given to the neighbouring peasantry by the 

firing of guns. The midshipmen, on whom suspicion first 

\ fell, were hurried into ranks, half-dressed ; and when the 

, names of the absentees were called over, someone taunt- 



ingly replied: 'Parti pour l'Angleterre!' This tone of 
triumph considerably exasperated the gendarmes, and 
inflamed the zeal of our pursuers ; it also might have had 
some influence in exciting the solicitude of the Com- 
mandant for our apprehension. 

" The whole town was in confusion. All the bloody- 
minded rabble were let loose, with multifarious weapons 
and carte blanche, to massacrer these lawless aspirants ; 
besides which 500 of the Garde Nationale were despatched 
to scour all the woods within five leagues, and an addi- 
tional reward of 300 livres was offered for the capture of 
each of us. The reason for limiting the search to that 
distance was a belief of the improbability of our having 
exceeded it after the arduous task of undermining, etc. 

" But to proceed. We were totally unacquainted with 
the country, and examination of the maps pointed out the 
place of our retreat to be the fortification of Tournay. 
The fallen ruins were the bed upon which fatigue and a 
confidence of security procured us a sound and refreshing 
sleep. At 3 p.m. we enjoyed our dinner, notwith- 
standing the want of beverage ; for, upon examining the 
knapsacks, the flasks were found broken. Whitehurst, 
having lost his hat in descending the first rampart, was 
occupied in manufacturing a cap from the skirts of his 
coat. It rained all the afternoon, and the weather in 
the evening getting worse, we were detained until about 
10 p.m. Then, no prospect of its clearing up presenting 
itself, we quitted our comfortable abode, walked round the 
citadel to the westward over ploughed ground, until, 
coming to a turnip field, we regaled ourselves most sump- 
tuously. By eleven we had rounded the town and gained 
the north road. 

" During the night we passed through several villages 
without seeing anyone, and at 6 a.m. arrived at the 
suburbs of Courtray, expecting there to find as snug a 
retreat as the one we had left the preceding evening. 
But, to our mortification, the town was enclosed with 


wet ditches, which obliged us to seek safety elsewhere. 
Observing a farmhouse on the right, our steps were 
directed towards it, and thence through by-lanes, until a 
mansion was discovered ; this we approached, in the hope 
of finding an outhouse which would afford us shelter for 
the day. Nothing of the kind could be seen ; but, not far 
distant, a thicket was descried, of about 150 paces square, 
surrounded by a wet ditch from fourteen to twenty feet 
wide. Here, then, we determined to repose our wearied 
limbs, and, it being daylight, not a moment was to be lost. 
The opposite side of the narrowest part of the ditch was 
one entire bed of brambles, and in the midst of these we 
were obliged to leap. 

'"Hunter, Mansell, and myself got over tolerably well ; 
but when Whitehurst made the attempt, stiff with wet and 
cold, and the bank giving way from his great weight, he 
jumped into the water. It was with difficulty he could be 
extricated, and not without being dragged through the 
brambles, by which he was severely scratched. We lay 
ourselves down in the centre of this swampy thicket. The 
rain had continued without intermission from the time of 
our leaving Tournay, and notwithstanding it somewhat 
discommoded us, yet we were consoled by the additional 
security it afforded. This little island protected us till 
nearly dark, when we walked round it to hnd the easiest 
point of egress. From the torrents of rain that had fallen 
during the day, the ditches had become considerably 
wider, and there was only one opening in the bushes 
whence a leap could be made. By this, three of us 
profited ; the fourth obtained a passage by the aid of a 
decayed willow which overhung the opposite bank." 

In this manner, and with a continuation of bad weather, 
i the party pursued their course to Blankenberge, a village 
j on the sea coast to the eastward of Ostend. On their 
! arrival at the gates of Bruges (after passing through 
'. Haerlebeck and Deynse), they were all in the most 
deplorable condition — wet to the skin, their feet bleeding 


and so swollen that they could scarcely walk at the rate of 
three miles an hour. 

" Near the gates," continues Midshipman Boyes, " we 
observed a public-house, and having hitherto found such 
places to afford relief and safety at this hour of the night, 
we entered, and saw nobody but an old woman and a 
servant. At first they appeared somewhat surprised, but 
asked no questions except such as regarded our wants, 
frequently exclaiming pauvres consents! We dried our 
clothes, when the sudden transition from cold to heat split 
Hunter's feet : several of his nails also were loose, and 
Whitehurst had actually walked off two. The fire made 
us all so very sensitive that we could scarcely bear our 
feet to the floor, but found some relief by bathing them in 
oil. Having, however, enjoyed a comfortable supper, we 
lay ourselves down, keeping watch in turn, until 4 a.m., 
when we paid the old woman and departed." 

Midway between Bruges and Blankenberge, they came 
upon another friend in need, a Madame Derikre, land- 
lady of the " Raie de Chat," a wayside public-house 
standing by itself. By her, indeed, they were concealed 
and kept from discovery for some time ; until they finally 
managed to effect their escape. 

During the weeks that they lay hidden in the " Raie 
de Chat," Midshipman Boyes contrived to make no fewer 
than thirteen trips to the coast in the hope of being able 
to secure a vessel to carry them to England ; but in every 
case without success. He thus relates what took place on 
his last trip and how it failed. 

"On the night of May 4, 1809, finding several vessels 
nearly afloat, I returned to our party with the joyful 
information. Furnished with provisions and a lantern, 
we proceeded silently to the water's edge and jumped 
on board the easternmost vessel, in the pleasing con- 
fidence of having at length evaded the vigilance of the 
enemy, and of being on the eve of restoration to our 
native soil. The wind was fresh and squally from the 


west-north-west with a good deal of swell ; the moon, only 
three days after the full, was so obscured by dark 
clouds that the night was very favourable for our purpose. 
The vessel was moored by five hawsers — two ahead and 
three astern. It was arranged that Whitehurst and 
Mansell should throw overboard the latter, Hunter and 
myself the former. This was preferred to cutting them. 
We had been so long in Flanders, and received such 
protection from the natives that all harsh feeling which 
might have existed towards an enemy was so mellowed 
into compassion for their sufferings under the Corsican 
yoke, that we were unwilling to injure one of them. 
We therefore had determined, if in our power, to send 
back the craft, which, being a fishing schuyt, might 
probably be the only support of an indigent family. 

" Whilst Whitehurst and Mansell were executing the 
duty allotted to them, Hunter and myself got ready 
the foresail and paid overboard one of the hawsers. The 
tide now rolled in, the vessel floated, and we hove her 
out to within four fathoms of her buoy. Whitehurst 
and myself being ready to cut the other hawser and hoist 
the sail, Hunter went to the helm, when he found 
the rudder was not shipped, but lying on the poop. We 
instantly ran aft, and got it down over the stern, but 
the vessel pitched so heavily that it was not possible 
to ship the lower pintle. We were now apprehensive 
of the whole failure of the attempt, for to go to sea 
without a rudder would have been absolute madness ; and 
being nearly under the battery, we were in momentary 
expectation of being fired into. 

" Several minutes were passed in this state of anxiety 
and danger, still persevering in the attempt to ship the 
rudder; but at length, rinding it impossible without a 
guide below, and feeling that our only hope was de- 
pendent upon the success of this important effort, in 
the excitement of the moment I jumped overboard. At 
the same instant the vessel springing a little ahead, and 


the sea washing me astern, it was not without the 
greatest exertion I could swim up to get hold of the 
stern-post. Hunter, seeing I was dashed from her by 
every wave, threw me a rope ; this I made fast round my 
waist, and then with some trouble succeeded in shipping 
the rudder. The effort of swimming and getting on 
board again, although assisted by my comrades, so 
completely exhausted me that I lay on my back for some 
time, incapable of moving a limb ; but at length rallying, 
I went forward to help hoist the foresail, whilst Hunter 
cut the hawser and ran to the helm. 

" The sail was no sooner up than the vessel sprung 
off, as if participating in our impatience and glorying 
in our deliverance ; such, however, is the uncertainty and 
vanity of all human projects, that at the very moment 
when we believed ourselves in the arms of liberty, and 
our feelings were worked up to the highest pitch of 
exultation, a violent shock suddenly arrested our pro- 
gress. We flew aft, and found that a few fathoms of the 
starboard-quarter hawser having been accidentally left 
on board, as it ran out, a kink was formed near the 
end, which, getting jammed between the head of the 
rudder and the stern-post, had brought the vessel up 
all standing. The knife was instantly applied, but the 
hawser was so excessively taut and hard that it was 
scarcely cut through one strand ere the increasing squall 
had swung her round on the beach. 

" At this critical juncture, as the forlorn hope, we 
jumped out to seize another vessel, which was still afloat, 
when Winderkins (a man engaged by the landlady of the 
' Raie de Chat ' to assist them in their escape) seeing a 
body of men running from the top of the sand-hills in 
order to surround us, gave the alarm. We immediately 
made a resolute rush directly across, leaving our knap- 
sacks and everything but the clothes on our backs in the 
vessel. The summit was gained just in time to slip over 
on the other side unseen. We ran along the sand-hills 


towards Blankenberge for about a hundred yards, when, 
mistaking a broad ditch for a road, I fell in, but scrambled 
out on the opposite side. Mansell, who was close at my 
heels, thinking that I had jumped in on purpose, followed ; 
this obliged the others to jump also. 

" Having regained the ' Raie de Chat,' we related the 
heartrending disaster to Madame Derikre. Fearing, from 
the many articles left in the vessel, that some of them 
would give a clue to our late abode, and be the means of 
causing a strict search, she was desired to destroy every- 
thing that could lead to discovery or suspicion ; then, 
taking all the bread in the house, and leaving Mansell 
there, we immediately set out for a wood on the other side 
of Bruges, where we arrived a little before daylight." 

Mansell, after remaining hidden, got away from the inn 
disguised as a girl, and boldly walking off to Bruges, found 
shelter with friends there. 

"Not having had time to dry our clothes at the ' Raie 
de Chat,'" continues Midshipman Boyes, " we were in a 
most deplorable state, shivering with cold and wet to the 
skin ; the tails of our jackets solid boards of ice, and not 
a shoe amongst us worthy of the name ! In this wood we 
remained three days, each succeeding hour seeming to 
redouble the sufferings of the last." 

During that time the "Raie de Chat" was twice 
searched by gendarmes and police officers, but fortunately 
for Madame Derikre they found nothing to confirm their 

Speaking of his subsequent hiding in another wood, 
about two miles to the eastward of the house, Midshipman 
Boyes says this of their sufferings : 

" The weather became intensely cold, and, literally clad 
in armour of ice, we lay listening to the whistling wind, 
and shivering with exposure to the chilling blast, which 
not only defied repose but threatened the most calamitous 
effects. Indeed, our limbs were sometimes so benumbed 
that it became absolutely indispensable to shake and twist 


ourselves about, to promote the necessary circulation of 
the blood. Nor did there appear any prospect of the 
termination of this misery ; for, as the black and pon- 
derous clouds passed swiftly over us, the wind increased, 
the hail beat furiously down, and the trees trembled, until 
the raging violence of the storm seemed to threaten the 
uprooting of the very wood we occupied. In this exposed 
situation, with variable though piercing cold weather, we 
remained until the 15th. 

" Whitehurst now suffered so severely from illness that 
doubts arose as to the possibility of his continuing much 
longer in this state of exposure; and, had not his complaint 
taken a favourable turn, his patience and fortitude must 
soon have yielded to stern and absolute necessity." 

About the end of March they learned that Mansell had 
managed to get on board a smuggler, and had in that 
manner reached England. 

Midshipman Boyes, then, on April 1, disguised as a 
carpenter, made an expedition to Bruges, where he in 
some way managed to interest a lady resident in his case, 
the wife of a "notaire publique " named Moitier, a Belgian 
gentleman of anti- Napoleonic leanings. Through the 
influence of the Moitiers he contrived to get the loan of a 
passport belonging to a man named Neirinks, whom Mid- 
shipman Boyes, in his narrative, describes as a Flemish 
" Chevalier a" Industrie." Neirinks, at any rate, did not try 
to swindle Midshipman Boyes. Accompanied by him 
and his sister, Boyes made a journey by way of Ghent, 
Brussels, Charleroi, and Namur, with the chivalrous 
intention of making an attempt to get his friend Moyes 
free before he himself left the country. But his generous 
intentions were to no purpose. On his arrival near Dinant 
he learned, to his great disappointment, that Moyes had 
been transferred to Bitche. After that there only remained 
for him to see after himself and his comrades, Whitehurst 
and Hunter. 

Returning to Bruges, he remained there in hiding until 


April 29. Then, again under the guidance of Neirinks, 
who proved himself throughout a trusty friend, he made 
his way once more to the " Raie de Chat," and picking 
up Whitehurst and Hunter there, the four contrived to 
get to Flushing. There the faithful Neirinks was able at 
last to procure a boat for them. They stole on board at 
midnight on May 8, rowed out until near the Goodwin 
Sands, where they came across an English fishing smack, 
by means of which they were landed safely at Dover early 
in the morning of May 10. 

Promoted Lieutenant shortly after reporting himself at 
the Admiralty, Midshipman Boyes, during the summer of 
the same year, while serving with the Walcheren Expe- 
dition, was enabled to contrive the escape of his two 
friends, Ricketts and Rochfort, and with that the tale 


A MESSMATE of O'Brien's, a fellow -midshipman 
with him on board the wrecked Hussar, Henry Ash- 
worth, effected an escape from Bitche with a number of 
companions one mid-winter night, in December, 1808. 

Midshipman Ashworth, with three other midshipmen — 
Christopher Tuthill of the Impetueux, who had been 
wrecked in a boat on the rocky islet of Beniguet off 
Brest; George Hall Dacre, wrecked off Cherbourg in the 
Mincrve with Captain Brenton ; George Potts, taken with 
Captain Wesley Wright on board the Vincejo brig in the 
Loire ; Charles Roberts, George Brine, and Walter Adams, 
merchant-service skippers ; Joseph Giles and John Daly, 
respectively a master and purser in the Navy; and a sea- 
man named John Light, all young men — in the summer 
of 1808 made an attempt, which failed, to escape from the 
dungeon in Bitche in which they were confined by digging 
a tunnel beneath the pavement of the place. They were 
discovered in the act, and were soon afterwards marched 
off, heavily chained and ironed, to Metz, to be tried there 
by court-martial for attempting to escape, and, as it was 
alleged, setting fire to their prison, and receive the 
atrocious and inhuman sentence of penal servitude for 
periods varying between fifteen and nine years in the 
galleys at Toulon. 

At the trial, we are told, their counsel, two French 
advocates of Metz, " used most powerful and eloquent 
language and arguments in their favour ; pointed out the 



inconsistency of suspecting people who were barred in 
and secured some thirty-five feet underground of setting 
fire to the very place they themselves were in, without a 
probability of getting out ; and dwelt upon the very great 
severity of condemning young officers and gentlemen in 
the prime of life to be slaves for simply endeavouring to 
regain their liberty and return to their native country." 
But it was all in vain ; the atrocious sentence was passed. 
This translation of the official summary of the court- 
martial and sentence, as published in England at the 
time, is reproduced here as something of a curiosity : 


" The copy of a sentence passed by a military tribunal 
of the Third Military Division of the Interior, assembled 
this 2gth day of A ugust, one thousand eight hundred and 

" The Military Tribunal, formed by virtue of the 
Imperial Decree of the lyth Frimaire, Year 14, and 
composed, conformable to the said decree, of Messieurs: 

" Esnard, Major of the 100th Regiment of Infantry of 
the Line, President. 

" Probst, Chief of Battalion, Sub-Director of the 
Academy of Science. 

" Pastrie, Captain in the 100th Regiment of Infantry 
of the Line. 

"Riviere, Captain in the 24th Regi>nent of Light 

" Gaily, Lieutenant in the 103rd Regiment of the Line. 

" Monsieur Rampont, Captain of Gensdarmerie, per- 
forming the duty of Prosecutor. 

" The whole appointed by the General of Division, 
Toget, Commandant-in-Chief of the Third Military 
Division, assisted by Monsieur Duchosal, fudge Advo- 
cate : all of whom, conformable to the stipulations of the 
articles 7 and 8 of the Law of the 13U1 Brumaire, 


Year 5, are exempt from any relationship existing between 
them and the prisoners, which the law forbids. 

" The Military Tribunal, convoked by the order of the 
General of Division, assembled at Metz, in one of the 
Chambers of the Guildhall, or Hotel de Ville, for the 
purpose of judging the undermentioned — Henry Ashworth, 
George Hall Dacre, Walter Adams, Christopher Tuthill, 
George Brine, and John Light, charged with being the 
principals of a conspiracy of evasion or desertion, which 
had taken place on the nights of the lyth and 18th of 
July last, in the souterrain of the English officers detained 
in the fortress of Bitche. 

"George Potts, John Daly, Joseph Giles, and Charles 
Roberts, all English prisoners of war, accused of being 
the principal incendiaries in the attempt that was made 
on the nights of the 18th and iglh of July to set on fire 
one of the souterrains of the said fortress of Bitche. 

" The court having been opened, the President directed 
the Judge Advocate to lay the different documents before 
him on the table, and afterwards requested the prosecutor 
to read the examinations, and to state the different circum- 
stances for and against the prisoners. 

" This being accomplished, the President commanded the 
guard to conduct the said prisoners into the court, who 
were introduced, or led in before the tribunal, disburdened 
of their fetters, assisted by Messrs. Mangay and Mangier, 
counsellors, residents at Metz, who were their counsel. 

" After having given the prisoners information of the 
charges alleged against them, and their being interrogated 
by the President ; having heard the different evidences on 
the part of the prosecutor, also the prosecutor in his 
different allegations, and the prisoners in their means of 
defence, as well as their counsel, both of whom had declared 
that they had nothing more to add by way of defence, the 
President asked the members of the Military Tribunal, if 
they had any observations to make ? Upon their replying 
in the negative, the court was cleared ; and after some 


time the prisoners were re-conducted before the Tribunal, 
when Henry Ashworth, George Hall Dacre, George 
Brine, Walter Adams, and John Light, were sentenced 
to serve as slaves in the galleys for fifteen years, and 
Christopher Tuthill for ten years, as they supposed him the 
least culpable. 

" George Potts, John Daly, Joseph Giles, and Charles 
Roberts, sentenced to serve as slaves in the galleys for nine 

For some reason not stated Napoleon revised the 
sentence. He reduced it to one of rigorous confinement 
in the dungeons of Bitche, as before, for the duration of 
the war : a terrible enough punishment in itself. The 
order for the prisoners to be conducted back to Bitche 
reached Metz from Paris just as they were being started 
oft for Toulon. 

Tramped back to Bitche, again heavily fettered, the 
Metz condamnes arrived on September 15 ; as it happened, 
on the very evening on which Midshipman O'Brien with 
his friend Hewson and two other midshipmen proposed to 
make their third attempt at escape. Ashworth, as has 
been said, had been a brother-midshipman with O'Brien 
in the Hussar, and Tuthill had travelled in company with 
the two in the same convoy of prisoners, when they were 
first sent to Bitche. Explaining that they were very close 
friends of his and old comrades, O'Brien managed to 
prevail on the gendarme in charge of the souterrain in 
which he was quartered to allow Ashworth and Tuthill to 
have supper with him that night in his place of confine- 
ment before the two were removed to their punishment 
dungeon below. 

During the meal, O'Brien asked Ashworth what he 
thought about making another attempt at escape. " No," 
was the reply; " I hardly think I dare run the risk again. 
This ghastly last sentence has quite bowled me out !" 
" What would you think," was O'Brien's rejoinder, " if 


Hewson and myself were to be off this very night ?" 
Ashworth smiled incredulously at the idea, taking it at 
first for a jest — as a scheme utterly impracticable. He 
soon learned that O'Brien was in earnest. " Before they 
took their final leave," says another naval officer, " O'Brien 
convinced him that, they fully intended putting his plan 
seriously to the trial, and excited in him a feeling of regret 
that it was not in his power to avail himself of the 
opportunity to share in the attempt, notwithstanding the 
deep impression his late sentence had made on him. 

" That night O'Brien and his companions carried their 
project into execution : picked the locks of their prison, 
eluded the vigilance of the sentinels, descended the walls, 
and after an anxious and painful progress of difficulty and 
danger through a course of thirteen hundred miles, arrived 
safe at Trieste in the month of November." 

Midshipman Ashworth got the news of his messmate's 
ultimate success, through a secret channel, at the end of 
November, by means of a letter which O'Brien wrote to 
him from Trieste, " directed in German to avoid sus- 
picion," which was smuggled into Bitche. 

The letter roused Ashworth from the state of depression 
into which he had sunk, and incited him to make yet one 
more attempt at escape. How he effected that success- 
fully and rejoined the Navy is told in his own words in a 
manuscript narrative which he began, but unfortunately 
was unable to complete before he met his death in action 
in a boat attack off Tarragona. 

This is the story as the hero of the exploit tells it : 

" It was a gloomy night in December, between the 
hours of seven and eight, that myself and eleven un- 
fortunate Englishmen, long confined in the fortress of 
Bitche, exposed to all the miseries of such a confinement, 
rendered more irksome by having repeatedly attempted in 
vain to recover our liberty, began to put in execution a 
plan of escape. At four o'clock we were locked up in our 
room, fourteen in number, two of whom were prevented 


by ill-health, from engaging with us in this arduous under- 

" Having made all the necessary preparations, as well 
for getting out of the fort, as for resisting the inclemency 
of the weather, in case as of being so fortunate as to 
succeed in the first part of our attempt, we proceeded to 
force the door of the chamber, which was secured by a 
lock on the inside, and a padlock on the outside. The 
bolt of the inside lock was forced back with little difficulty ; 
the padlock gave us more trouble, and it was only by 
boring and cutting the door round the fastening of the hasp, 
that we at length succeeded. In performing this opera- 
tion, the greatest precaution was requisite, as in the room 
beneath, which was the ground floor, were lodged a part of 
our guards, under whose special charge we were placed. 

" The forcing of this door formed, however, but a small 
part of our difficulties : we had now co ascend a flight of 
stairs, at the top of which was a door which communicated 
with the other side of the building. This door had been 
long planked up for greater security, and it was only by 
cutting through one of the planks, that we could hope to 
effect a passage. Our implements were little calculated 
for this undertaking, but we had no choice. The plank 
was first bored across with a gimblet, as close as the work- 
man, whose fingers were his only guide, could effect it; 
it was then cautiously sawed through with a knife, notched 
for the purpose. The plank thus divided, still required a 
violent effort to force it from the place it had so long 
occupied ; and when it at length yielded to repeated tugs, 
the whole building resounded with the crash. A fear of 
immediate discovery seized us — a silence of some minutes 
followed — till, at length, recovering our presence of mind, 
we recollected that so total an inactivity would be more 
likelv than anything else to raise the suspicions of those 
below. The passage being now clear, the workmen again 
descended to the apartment, to await an opportunity, and 
to make their last preparations. 


"The rope with which we were to descend the wall had 
been some time prepared. It was made of strips of linen, 
bought at different times, under the pretence of making 
some towels. These strips, each of about eighteen inches 
in width, were rolled up, with a slip of blanket in the 
middle, to increase the bulk, and to render it soft to the 
hand. It was then marled at every two or three feet with 
twine; it was about forty feet in length, the ramparts 
which we had to descend being about eighty feet in height. 
This length of rope, even when rolled tight, formed a ball 
of considerable magnitude. The conspirators, for so we 
were to be termed, had been used to put it into a large 
kettle, which they hung on one side of the fire, when they 
apprehended that a search might be made. We now drew 
lots to determine who should first sally forth, and try his 
fortunes ; this point being decided, it was agreed that two 
should go together, to render each other mutual assistance 
in case of need. 

" The seventh was just gone, and Tuthill and myself 
stood just ready to follow, when heavy footsteps were 
heard ascending the staircase — the door was softly closed, 
and the remaining few stood anxiously waiting the event. 
We feared that the last gone would not have had time to 
get through the hole in the door, and that the stranger, in 
groping his way up the stairs, might clap his hand on him. 
Our fears, however, were fortunately unfounded ; after 
speaking to an Englishman confined in a room above, and 
discovering by his faltering accents that he had been 
sacrificing to Bacchus, this scarecrow descended the stair- 
case, and entered the room below. 

" Tuthill and myself now ventured forth, barefoot, our 
shoes girded round our middle, and furnished with a loaf of 
brown bread, and a certain quantity of brandy in a bladder. 
We crept through the hole, and found ourselves on the 
staircase of the opposite side of the building, at the top of 
which we fancied we saw a figure watching. No time, 
however, was to be lost; we descended the stairs, at the 


bottom of which a door opened into another room, 
occupied by our guard, whom we heard talking and 
laughing. We were now at the door which opened out 
on the ramparts, and from whence the white rope was 
visible, fastened to a huge stone, and leading through one 
of the embrasures. Having looked cautiously round, and 
seeing no one, we ventured across, and jumped into the 
embrasure, where we found one of our companions waiting 
to descend ; another still hanging to the rope. 

"At this moment two Frenchmen passed through the 
gate of the fort, and were crossing the drawbridge which 
led down to the town : they were followed by a dog. On 
arriving opposite the part of the wall we were descending, 
the dog made a stand, and began to bark ; fortunately the 
master, earnestly engaged in conversation with his com- 
panion, was less clear-sighted than his dog, and rewarded 
him with several blows of a cane, which put an end to his 
barking, and to our immediate apprehensions. 

" Tuthill, who had sprained his wrist some days before, 
now descended, trusting only to his left hand, and arrived 
in safety at the bottom. I now prepared to follow, and 
clinging to the rope, descended gently about half-way ; 
here a projecting part of the rock on which the fortress 
was constructed, afforded me a resting-place for some 
seconds. Whilst in this position I heard the footsteps of 
men ascending to the fort from the town, and on their 
approach discovered them by their conversation to be two 
of the veterans returning to the fort from spending the 
[evening in town. They passed underneath, and quickly 
igot under the archway leading to the fort. 

" I now began again to descend, but owing to the pro- 
jection of the rock, the rope now hung in a perpendicular 
; direction, and deprived me of the use of my feet, which, 
1 until then, had been of considerable service to me. 
Besides my arms being tired with so long sustaining my 
i whole weight, I was under the necessity of letting myself 
'slide ; and as I lost the command of myself as the velocity 
i l 9 


increased, I may almost be said to have fallen the last 
twenty feet. At the bottom were several logs of wood, 
piled on each other, some of which being displaced by the 
fall, rolled over and produced a rumbling noise, rendered 
more audible by the stillness of the night. The fear of an 
alarm quickly roused me from the stupor which so rapid 
a descent had caused, and gliding along the foot of the 
wall, I crossed the drawbridge leading out of the fort, and 
by the side of some palisades discovered two of my com- 
panions. We waited anxiously the arrival of the fourth, 
who was not long in joining us, and we immediately pro- 
ceeded to endeavour to extricate ourselves from the 
entrenchments by which the fort was surrounded. In 
this we found no small degree of trouble, and a quarter of 
an hour must have elapsed before we had the satisfaction 
of finding ourselves on a road leading into the country. 

" We now took to our heels, unmindful of the danger of 
running without shoes on the frozen ground and pieces of 
ice. After running about half a mile, we stopped to take 
breath, and cast a farewell look on the gloomy mansion 
which we hoped never to revisit. We now judged it 
prudent to put on our shoes, to avoid the painful accidents 
so likely to happen to our feet from the rugged ground. 
Judge of my mortification on discovering that I had lost 
one of my shoes, as I supposed, in descending the wall. 
It would have proved rather detrimental than otherwise 
to have put on the remaining one ; I therefore resolved to 
proceed barefoot, until an opportunity might offer of pro- 
viding myself with another pair. The clock of the fortress 
now struck eight, and we set out at a good round pace, in 
the direction which we supposed would lead us toward 
the Rhine. In a few minutes afterwards the hills were 
momentarily illuminated by a flash, which was soon fol- 
lowed by the report of a gun, warning us of our escape 
being discovered. We now again set out to run, and the 
bells of the town, which were almost instantly set in 
motion, guided in some measure our steps. 


" At length we arrived at a wood, into which we imme- 
diately penetrated, as an asylum from horsemen, whom we 
naturally supposed would be immediately despatched in 
pursuit of us. We proceeded with silence and caution, 
endeavouring to keep the course we had at first adopted ; 
the night was cloudy — not a star was visible — and the 
moon, which peeped at intervals from behind a cloud, was 
our only guide. About midnight we stopped to refresh 
ourselves by the side of a brook, and were regaling our- 
selves with the provisions we had brought from the fort, 
when we were suddenly alarmed by the barking of a large 
house-dog close to us, who, immediately on giving the 
alarm, ran to a farmhouse at a small distance, which had 
until then escaped our observation. We lost no time in 
packing up the remains of our viands, and walked boldly 
past the house, trusting that its inhabitants would not 
have had time to rouse from their slumbers. We continued 
our journey, walking quick, and sometimes running, in 
what we conceived the proper direction, and began to 
flatter ourselves we had made considerable progress, and 
that we could not be more than five or six leagues from 
the Rhine. Turning the corner of a wood, just as the 
morning dawned, we met with a peasant, who bore the 
appearance of a wood-cutter; and thinking the oppor- 
tunity favourable for informing ourselves of our situation, 
we accosted him, carefully avoiding the mention of the 
place we had left. Judge of our surprise and mortifi- 
cation on discovering from his answers that we were not 
more than three or four leagues from our ancient dwelling! 

" Our ardour was not a little damped by this discovery, 
together with the gloomy prospect which presented itself 
of passing the day in a wood, which lay at some distance, 
and in which we purposed taking up our abode. On 
crossing a road, however, on the top of a hill which lay 
between, we met with another peasant, and being desirous 
of gaining further intelligence, questioned him in order to 
enable us to continue our journey the following night. He 


at first seemed to dislike our appearance, and was reserved 
in his answers. A three-livre piece, however, produced a 
wonderful and instantaneous effect, and he became sur- 
prisingly communicative, pointing us out the direction in 
which the Rhine lay, and even offering to conduct us part 
of the way. Emboldened by this appearance of zeal in 
our behalf, we gave him to understand that we had been 
travelling all night, and that the peculiar circumstances 
under which we laboured would oblige us to conceal our- 
selves in a wood during the day, unless he could devise 
some means of secreting us and of providing us with an 
asylum against the inclemency of the weather. Further 
to excite his compassion, we showed him our hands and 
feet, torn as they were and blackened by the frost. We 
concluded our request by the promise of a handsome 
reward, and to show him we possessed the means, pro- 
duced several pieces of gold. The latter part of our 
argument had a visible good effect. After appearing to 
ruminate some moments, he told us that he had no house 
of his own, but that he lived with several other labourers, 
on whose prudence he could not sufficiently rely to place 
us in their power, but that he knew of a barn, in which 
he sometimes went to thrash, where he could conceal us 
and answer for our security. We immediately closed 
with his offer, which met with universal approbation, and 
hastened to the place in question before the day was 
further advanced. The barn lay in a valley at four stones' 
throw from a small village surrounded by hills. On enter- 
ing the barn, we gave him two six-livres pieces, the farther 
to ensure his fidelity ; we then climbed into the loft, and 
placed ourselves in one of the corners most remote from 

At this point the narrative unfortunately breaks, off. 
As has been said, Ashworth was killed before he could 
continue it. 

He and his companions, however, were able to get 
across the Rhine undiscovered, and traversed Baden and 


half through Wtirtemberg in company. In Wiirtemberg 
an injury to his foot compelled Ashworth to stay behind 
the others for a few days, intending to overtake them 
later. Possibly he owed his getting through to Trieste to 
this mishap. In Bavaria eight of his eleven comrades 
were trapped by the police, and sent back as prisoners to 
France — as had already once happened to Midshipman 
O'Brien on the occasion of his second escape — Bavaria 
being at the time one of Napoleon's vassal states. 

Three of the eleven got through and reached Trieste, 
then Austrian territory, where Napoleon could not seize 
them. They picked up at Trieste yet another escaped 
British midshipman, named Masters, who had broken 
away from a convoy of prisoners while on the way from 
Verdun to Bitche, shortly after Ashworth and his com- 
panions made their escape. Masters had made his way 
through eastern France, and then across the Tyrol and 
round by Venice. 

Young Ashworth joined his escaped friends at Trieste, 
and then, within a few days, a British frigate, cruising in 
the Adriatic, opportunely arrived in the harbour. That 
ship took them on board and carried them to Malta, to be 
found berths by Collingwood — at that time in chief 
command in the Mediterranean — in various men of war 
of his fleet. 

In a letter which Midshipman Ashworth wrote home 
on getting to Malta, he briefly outlines the final incidents 
of his adventure: from the point at which his detailed 
narrative breaks off: 

" Thank God I have at length recovered my liberty, 
which I bought with excessive fatigue and anxiety of 
mind. I escaped from Bitche with eleven others the 
night of December 8. After walking six days barefoot 
through frost and snow, I crossed the Rhine with my 
companions. A wound which I received in my foot the 
night of my escape, and which I was afraid would mortify, 
obliged me to wait in a village in Wiirtemberg ; and as 


our situation was critical, I begged my fellow-sufferers to 
leave me and proceed on their journey. In nine days I 
found myself able to walk, and travelled as a Swiss 
through the States of the Confederation of the Rhine. 
After innumerable hairbreadth escapes, I arrived at Salz- 
burg, a frontier town of Austria, where I procured a 
passport as an American officer, and travelled with more 
safety to Trieste, a seaport on the Adriatic. There the 
English Vice-Consul, Mr. Delon, gave me £20 for a bill 
on my uncle, and a few days after the Unit/ frigate 
appeared off, and I embarked. We arrived here on 
the 14th. 

" Captain Campbell introduced me to the Governor, 
Sir Alexander Ball, who advised me to join Lord Colling- 
wood, and endeavour to pass my examination in the fleet ; 
promising to recommend me, as promotion is very rapid 
on this station, and there is a number of vacancies in the 
fleet. I took his advice. The Unite is expected to sail 
every hour to join his lordship, either at Palermo or 
Minorca. Captain Campbell had the goodness to desire 
his agent to advance me what money I pleased to procure 
myself uniform, etc. . . . On my arrival at Trieste I was 
literally half naked, and in my present situation it is 
necessary to keep appearances." 


THE end for the Verdun prisoner-depot came as a 
surprise : in January, 1814. Within a week of the 
Allied Army crossing the Rhine, Napoleon, then at 
Chalons-on-the-Marne endeavouring to reorganize the 
Grand Army for its last stand, on January 6, issued 
instructions for all the depots in North-Eastern France 
to be removed to a safer neighbourhood. The Verdun 
depot was ordered to be cleared out at once, and the 
prisoners of war and detenus transferred en bloc to Blois. 
Already Blucher's Prussians were crossing the passes 
of the Vosges, and Russian Cossack patrols had been 
seen beyond Nancy. The British prisoners at all the 
depots were hurriedly set in motion : at Longwy and 
Besancon, at Briancon, at Givet and Charlemont ; even 
those at places so far west as Arras, Valenciennes, and 
Cambray ; also the punishment-depots of Bitche, Sedan, 
and Sarrelouis. Orleans, Blois, Poictiers, Tours, Autun, 
Amiens, Maubeuge, and Bapeaume, were named as the 
places of concentration. 

The prisoners in every case were ordered to quit their 
quarters within a few hours. They were summarily 
ejected — literally bundled out ; the short notice being 
received at some of the depots with a feeling little short 
of consternation. What did it mean ? That was the 
question that all were asking. To be routed out like 
that at practically only one day's notice, and forced to 
set out on a long and arduous journey in the midst of 
winter, with deep snow all over the country, came on 



them as an act of sheer barbarity. Few of the prisoners, 
as a fact, had any inkling as to how near the end of 
the war was : to what desperate straits Napoleon had 
been reduced. Very little intelligence indeed had reached 
the prisoners as to the extent of the disasters of the 
Grand Army in Germany. Practically nothing of what 
was happening was known in France even then. To 
clear them all out and make them change quarters at 
that season of the year seemed to the British prisoners 
only a fresh infliction of unnecessary suffering. 

On the eleven hundred captives at Verdun in particular 
the news of the forthcoming exodus fell with the shock of 
a stunning blow. 

There many circumstances combined to aggravate the 
situation tenfold. At Verdun the Englishmen owed 
money to tradesmen and lodging-house keepers all over 
the place ; hardly anybody had any cash in hand ; how 
were they to provide their indispensable travelling ex- 
penses, to procure proper clothing for the journey? The 
French authorities on the spot had received no money 
to make advances with : the prisoners' last allowances 
had all been spent, the next were not yet due. For 
nine out of ten of the officer-prisoners trudging on foot 
through the snow, clad as they were, in company with 
their gendarme escorts, was what they had to look for- 
ward to. Only a very few of the higher officers and 
the richer detenus had funds sufficient to provide convey- 

There was this also to add to the general distress. 
For the majority of the detenus the prospect was dis- 
astrous, indeed appalling. Most of them had been in 
residence for years, and had settled down in Verdun 
with their families as in their homes. Some, indeed, had 
purchased and furnished the houses they occupied. Like 
their officer friends, they too, in addition to their debts 
in Verdun, had no ready money or means of getting any. 
Some again had young children ; while a considerable 


number were elderly people between sixty and seventy 
years of age, not a few in impaired health and infirm. 
But the order for all to clear out at once and leave 
the fortress to its garrison was peremptory. 

A Naval Lieutenant among the prisoners wrote this 
in a letter which he managed to smuggle off while 
en route to a brother-officer then in England, who had 
been himself a prisoner at Verdun earlier in the war, and 
had gained his liberty : 

"No more than twenty-four hours' notice was given ; 
and knowing as you do the situation of many of us, 
in arrears for lodgings and in debt in every quarter of the 
town, you will be better able to conceive than I am able 
to describe the clamours, reproaches, uproar, and con- 
fusion which took place. Many were forced to leave 
their goods and baggage behind them ; and others, with 
their wives and numerous families, in the midst of winter, 
were compelled to undertake a dreary journey, over bad 
cross-country roads, ill-provided with raiment, money, or 

Lord Blayney describes the scene when the first batch 
of Verdun prisoners started for Blois, the place named as 
their destination, in these words : 

" On January 12, 1814," he says, " the first division 
of our countrymen quitted Verdun : it was composed 
of midshipmen, masters of merchant vessels, and others 
of inferior classes. The midshipmen, above all, presented 
a singular sight, from the bizarrerie of their costumes and 
equipages, which gave the scene more the appearance 
of a masquerade than a march. These young gentlemen, 
to use one of their own phrases, ' were up to everything,' 
and such seemed to be the partiality of the fair sex 
for them that few were without a French female com- 
panion, many of whom had made a greater progress in 
plain English than I could have supposed, many having 
perfectly at command the choicest selection of sailors' 
oaths and cant sayings which they applied in the slang 


style, and with a tone and manner as if they had received 
their education at the back of the Point at Portsmouth." 

But uglier even than that was this display of shabbiness 
and actual dishonesty which Lord Blayney chronicles : 

" All the minor bourgeois of the town crowded together 
at the gate to take leave of their English friends, and 
many of them to make a last attempt at recovery of money 
due to them by the young prisoners. Few, however, if 
any, were the instances of success, for several of those 
who had money contented themselves by letting their 
creditors look at it, merely to tantalize them, and returning 
it to their pockets told them ' they would be paid by the 
Cossacks.' Indeed, I am sorry to be obliged to observe 
that the non-payment of the most great debts, so far from 
being considered as dishonourable both to the individual 
and the national character, was almost deemed meritorious, 
and the general expression for it was softened down to 
that of ' distressing the enemy !' " 

Next day, January 13, the second division of captives, 
comprising the senior officers and civilian detenus with 
their families, set out from Verdun for Blois. Some of 
them, we are told, rode ; others went in carriages or dog- 
carts. Deep snow was on the ground, and it was freezing 
hard ; and the conveyances — which, between them, com- 
prised everything on wheels that could be hired or bought 
in Verdun or the neighbourhood — proved in many cases 
ramshackle make-shifts ; " wretched vehicles that con- 
stantly broke down." 

In consequence of the exposure a number of the un- 
fortunate prisoners died, we are told, during the first two 
days' march. 

" We set off by detachments, in every possible mode," 
describes the naval officer quoted, in his letter, " but were 
obliged to go a prescribed road, and to reach this at 
a given time. During our march we experienced all the 
rigours that extreme cold and bad weather could produce. 
We were billeted upon the inhabitants of the places where 


we halted ; but I am sorry to say, in general, we were 
very badly lodged. However, all things considered, I got 
over it tolerably well. I left Verdun with no more than 
twenty-one francs, out of which, and the marching money, 
I not only contrived to meet the expenses of the journey 
to Blois, but also to buy me a new pair of shoes. I walked 
the whole of the way, and acquitted myself much to my 

On the third day, the road followed by the prisoners 
from Verdun brought them into the main road, by which, 
as it chanced, the stream of French fugitives from Metz 
were making their escape, officials and the civilian popula- 
tion, mostly on foot, and suffering fearfully, like the 
Verdun prisoners, from the weather. Mixed up with the 
Metz refugees were a number of French soldiers, largely 
disbanded cavalry from Napoleon's army, straggling off to 
the rear by way of Clermont and Chalons. Further on, 
the train of Verdun prisoners came across masses of 
French troops on the move, battalions of boy conscripts, 
with newly raised batteries of artillery, all hustling along 
with their faces eastward, to reinforce Napoleon for the 
last stand. To add to the general confusion, too, in the 
midst of the crowd they got jammed in among columns 
of Spanish and Austrian prisoners, marching escorted by 
gendarmes, who were, like themselves, changing depots, on 
the way to safer localities. 

More than once the route the Verdun prisoners were 
taking was altered, and they had to make detours by round- 
about roads. It led at least to one interesting incident. 
At one place Lord Blayney and a party of officers who 
accompanied him met the Pope, who was being transferred 
from his former place of detention at Fontainebleau. 
"The Pope," says Lord Blayney, "was in a carriage 
drawn by six greys, and two four-horse carriages carried 
the attendant Cardinals and suite, all huddled in to- 
gether." Lord Blayney, who got a good look at the Pope 
(Pius VII.), describes him as " a small, pale, mild man, 


dressed in ermine." As the Pope passed along, he tells 
us, " most of the crowd of country people fell on their 
knees to him." Pressing ahead of the Papal escort of 
gendarmes, Lord Blayney and his party of British officers 
got to their next stopping-place — Pithivres, a small town 
— some hours before the Pope arrived. All the inns there 
were so crowded by French officers that it was only with 
the greatest difficulty that accommodation could be found 
for the English prisoners who, indeed, themselves gave up 
their quarters on the arrival of the Papal party, to make 
room for the Pope and his entourage. As Lord Blayney 
says : " I and those with me had to give up our beds to 
the Pope and Cardinals, the French officers refusing to 
quit their quarters." 

At Orleans, where the column of prisoners which the 
Naval Lieutenant, whose letter we have quoted from, 
rested for three days, the officer in question met a hospit- 
able detenu, who had been allowed to reside in that part 
of France for his health — a Mr. Thompson, M.P. for 
Evesham in 1803. He had been on a Continental tour 
with his family, and was returning home by Paris when 
Napoleon's edict made him captive. " This gentleman," 
says our Verdun Lieutenant, " displayed a most hospitable 
mind. He was kind and attentive to all ; to many he 
advanced cash, and entertained as many as his house 
would accommodate whilst the depot was passing ; more 
than twenty sat down at his table to dine. You cannot 
think how much it cheered one's spirits, after a long and 
fatiguing march on foot, to partake of his hospitable cheer 
and sit by his blazing fires of wood." 

Next day they pushed on again and in due course got to 
Blois, where the Verdun prisoners were ordered to halt 
until further orders came. 

Lord Blayney speaks of finding Blois, on his arrival 
there, " crammed and terribly expensive." " A turkey," 
records the General, "which at Verdun cost five or six 
francs, at Blois was priced at three livres ten sous. A 


Loire salmon could only be got at thirty sous the pound, 
and butchers' meat was nine sous the pound." The only 
lodging that Lord Blayney could procure for himself was 
priced at a hundred and fifty francs per month ; and the 
accommodation consisted only of "two miserable bedrooms 
on the second floor." The town of Blois was indeed in a 
hopeless condition : " crowded with prisoners changing 
depots according to the movements of the Allies, all in a 
state of miserable fatigue, without clothing or shoes and 
hungry." In the prevailing confusion no victuals were 
served out by the French Government to the prisoners, 
and owing to the inclemency of the weather " many died, 
or became frost-bitten and crippled for life." Numbers of 
the English military prisoners, we are told, were found to 
be literally destitute, in rags, and starving. Efforts were 
made to relieve them, but "what money the officers and 
others gave them they squandered in drink, and committed 
great excesses." 

Little time for rest, however, was granted to the Verdun 
English at Blois. Hardly had they begun to try and 
settle down, hoping to reconcile themselves to the change 
of quarters, "some even looking forward to spending a 
pleasant summer by the Loire," than, in consequence of 
the persistent advance of the Allied Armies, all were 
abruptly ordered to move on again elsewhere. 

Lord Blayney relates this incident as taking place 
on one of the last days of his stay at Blois, on news 
coming to the effect that Napoleon had totally defeated 
the Russian army. " A grand victory," he says, " was 
proclaimed by trumpet through the town, and placards 
were affixed on the chief buildings, announcing that the 
Russian army " Etait entierement an^antie." General 
Blayney and the other British officers were directed to 
attend at the theatre that night to hear the news given 
out there in the presence of the municipal authorities and 
the Commandant and the principal officers of the garrison. 
The announcement was made, we are told, " between the 


pieces, when an actor came on the stage and read the 
official bulletin." 

" The player, however," Lord Blayney goes on to relate, 
" over-acted his part and destroyed the impression he 
intended to make, and rendered the whole account absurd. 
After running on with a string of unpronounceable names, 
and stating that the artillery, caissons, fourgons, baggage, 
and equipage of the enemy had fallen into the power of 
the French, he concluded with ' Messieurs, l'Armee Russe 
est entierement detruite, et, je suis heureux d'avoir 
l'honneur de vous informer, sans nous avoir coute" un 
seul homme tu6 !' All the officials ordered to attend," 
adds Lord Blayney, " received the news with clapping and 
shouts of ' Bravo ! Vive Napoleon !' " 

On that came the turn of the others present. 

"The eyes of the whole house were, as might be 
expected, turned on the English, and they seemed to be 
not a little surprised at observing John Bull louder in 
applauding than themselves; vociferating 'Bravo! Vive 
Napoleon ; Encore ! Encore P That brought the actor 
forward again to repeat the news, and he was even so 
stupid as to continue, until the French at last perceived 
that we were turning them into ridicule. From several 
parts of the house was heard ' Bravo ! Ce n'est pas vrai ! 
Bravo ! Quel mensonge !' " 

" A few days," says Lord Blayney, " proved the ridicu- 
lous exaggeration of the report, for this same totally 
annihilated Russian army resuscitated as if by miracle 
and gained some considerable advantages. Besides, the 
positions occupied by the French army as well as the 
falling off of the funds convinced the people of the suc- 
cesses of the Allies." 

The prisoners' dep6t was hurriedly moved on from 
Blois to Gueret in the Department of the Creuse. The 
order to start was indeed " put in execution within an 
hour of its receipt." And the journey was made as 
arduous for them as could be. According to General 


Blayney, the British prisoners were directed by General 
Bonard, the Commandant at Blois, " an ill-conditioned 
fellow," as Blayney calls him, out of sheer spite, in 
retaliation for the scene in the theatre, to travel by cross- 
country roads instead of taking the direct highway. The 
route prescribed formed two-thirds of a circle, along a bad 
road which was almost impracticable for carriages, and 
offered by the way the most wretched accommodation. 
It was a cruel outlook for the sick and the detenu 
families in the bleak inclement weather of that spring : 
but General Bonard's order peremptorily forbade any 
deviation whatever from the route he had named. In the 
result, however, it proved possible for many of the 
prisoners to set Bonard at defiance. 

Only those really whose poverty compelled them to 
accompany the gendarmes on foot, for the sake of free 
lodgings and rations on the way, obeyed the order. The 
others — including Lord Blayney — took advantage of the 
prevailing state of general confusion in Central France 
and paid no heed to it. There being, it was apparent, no 
means of enforcing compliance, all who could afford a 
conveyance of any sort, we are told, followed the direct 
way, the high road, and managed to get on fairly well. 

Our Verdun Naval Lieutenant, being among those who 
had no money, had to tramp with the gendarmes all the 
way — an eight days' journey, as he records. He says this 
about it : " The roads are uncommonly bad — they are all 
cross-country roads — and we shall start without our march- 
ing money. The sailors and private soldiers belonging to 
the depot, who have preceded us, have suffered dreadfully, 
poor fellows, being ill-clothed and in want of necessaries 
of every kind. In short, the whole depot are hard run ; 
however, I hold up, and shall, by fortitude and perse- 
verance, surmount all these trifles ; but, under any circum- 
stances, I rejoice that I am no longer in Verdun. My 
mind has become much more tranquil since I left that 
detested place, where I have sometimes wished I had 


been left to perish of the wounds I received when I was 
made prisoner." 

At Gueret, " a poor town of 3,000 inhabitants," the 
refugees from Verdun were allowed finally to settle down. 
It was, according to Lord Blayney, as miserable a place as 
could have been found for the purpose. " Prices," he tells 
us, "were exorbitant beyond conception, and there was 
only room for half the dep6t. Upwards of two hundred 
people had to sleep in stables and barns, while what 
lodgings could be procured by the better off were dirty 
and half furnished only. Lord Blayney says that he had 
to pay at the rate of 300 francs a month for part of a 
small house until, after some days of that, he was allowed 
to hire a vacant country residence outside the town. He 
took up his quarters there, buying a horse so as to be able 
to ride into Gueret every day to see after and help some 
of the soldiers among the prisoners. 

Of how the British naval prisoners in general fared at 
Gueret, we get this glimpse from a second letter which 
our Naval Lieutenant friend wrote from there on March 14: 
" The depot arrived here," he says, " on the 26th ult., and 
were generally and severally disappointed. Lodgings are 
extremely dear, and no less scarce. A single room, badly 
furnished, lets for fifty or sixty francs a month. . . . There 
are two-and-thirty villages appointed in which we may 
reside and make our own selection ; some of them are five 
leagues distant from the town. This place consists of no 
more than three or four thousand inhabitants, and has for a 
century past been termed ' La Sib^rie Frangaise.' " Speak- 
ing of general matters in their new quarters, the writer goes 
on : " As usual, the wealthy travelled post, arrived first at 
this place, and secured the best lodgings. The clubs fall 
off: the 'Forty-Five' is shut up; the 'Twenty-Five' is 
irregular; a few of the party smoke away the evenings. 
The other hangs on so so ; half a dozen of them are not 
to be met together of an evening. The general resort is 
at a coffee-house, where smoking prevails. The depot, 


however, is much improved as to morals. Regarding 
play, there is little or none; except among a certain 
description, unworthy of mention. ... As you may well 
suppose, nothing can be more miserable than our situation, 
living in a state of tormenting suspense, anxious for news 
and knowing nothing of what is passing." 

How the news of the surrender of Paris and the down- 
fall of Napoleon reached the prisoners at Gueret we are 
told by Lord Blayney. It was in the first week of April. 
To the very last there had been no reliable intelligence to 
be gleaned of the progress of the campaign. Napoleon 
was said to be holding his own, in spite of the tremendous 
odds against him. Then, all unexpectedly, with dramatic 
suddenness, came the news that Paris had fallen. It was 
on a Sunday evening that the startling message came. As 
Lord Blayney tells the story, he was at his residence, and 
was just finishing dinner, to which a few friends had been 
invited from Gueret, when a private messenger brought in 
authentic news oi the fall of Paris. " The best wine was 
ordered up from the cellar amid cheers of delight at soon 
going home !" 

"On the following day," continues Lord Blayney, "I 
went into the town of Gueret. The English were elated 
to madness ; white cockades were exhibited by them : but 
the Prefect, who had been strongly attached to Napoleon, 
would make nothing known, and the event was altogether 
so sudden and wonderful that one half of the inhabitants 
could not believe it, and were afraid to show symptoms of 
joy, however rejoiced they might inwardly feel." 

The British prisoners, though, were not to be restrained 
from showing what they thought and felt. 

" Our midshipmen became riotous, and the Imperial 

Eagles which were exhibited in various parts of the town 

, as signs and emblems of Napoleon's omnipotence, were 

1 soon destroyed. A confirmation of the good news was 

I coming into the town continually, although the Prefect 

remained obstinate." 



We have from Lord Blayney this picture of one of the 
closing scenes : 

" On the following day we formed a party to go to the 
play. The players were Bourbonists, or assumed that 
character, and although the Mayor and many of the 
authorities had not received intelligence regularly from 
the Prefect, the players came forward also in white 

" One of them had obtained a very large Croix de St. 
Louis, and appeared in the formerly much respected 
character of an old French officer. He was loudly 
applauded ; but the musicians, who, unfortunately, could 
not play the tune of ' God Save the King,' which possibly 
they had never heard of, were saluted from all quarters by 
so sharp a fire of apples and other missiles for their 
ignorance that they were forced to seek their safety in 

" The playhouse now exhibited a scene of friendly riot, 
confusion, and noise, the French and English mutually 
crying out ' Vivent les Anglais!' 'Vive les Francais!' and 
complimenting each other, so that the parts of the play 
were totally changed, the spectators or audience assuming 
the character of actors, while, vice versa, the actors became 

After that apparently pandemonium set in. 

" An old French General, with a large hooked nose, met 
with great attention from his having a Croix de St. Louis 
and a conspicuously large white cockade. His appearance 
was quite a caricature, yet he created an additional interest 
in the English by his crying out ' Vivent les Anglais ! 
Vivent nos Liberateurs !' An Irish officer next seemed to 
attract notice, and to supersede the old General by hisj 
sudden appearance in the house. The first words he 
uttered were : ' Nous sommes libres ! Arrah, blood and 
thunder, boys, is there none of you can sing " God Save 
the King " ? ' And, after a short pause : ' Then, by Japers,' 
says he, ' since that's so, bedad I'll sing it meself !' 


" He accordingly jumped on the stage from the upper 
row of boxes, and was getting forward tolerably well with 
his song, when poor Pat suddenly disappeared in the 
prompter's hole, to the vast entertainment of the audience. 
It may be presumed he never calculated on the possibility 
of such a hole being placed nearly in the middle of the 
stage. It had, however, a good stage effect ; and, as he 
received no material damage from his fall, he reappeared 
and got through the song, supported by so many dis- 
cordant voices and notes as to leave the French musicians 
and actors much at a loss to know the real composition of 
English music." 

With the close of hostilities the English prisoners were 
drafted off in batches to return home. " Prisoners from 
various depots marched through Gueret for Bordeaux to 
embark there : all in great distress, for the French Govern- 
ment gave no clothing nor even arrears of pay due." For 
his part, Lord Blayney, acting on behalf of the British 
Government, obtained funds from local merchants and 
others for the purchase of shoes at Gueret ; but, as he 
records, " the prisoners mostly drank out the money and 
sold the shoes." 

The prisoners, indeed, more than that, having got drunk, 
proceeded to celebrate their return home by a general riot. 
" When elated with liquor they regarded all Frenchmen 
indiscriminately as having been the authors of their long 
captivity and misfortunes ; the windows, therefore, of the 
inhabitants suffered severely — scarcely a pane of glass 
remaining unbroken in the town of Gueret." 

* * * * # 

This detail may be added to close the narrative of the 
doings of the British prisoners in France as a sequel. It 
particularly concerns the British prisoners at Verdun : 

The private debts of all kinds, house rent, tradesmen's 

bills, and so forth, left behind by the British prisoners at 

i their hasty exodus from Verdun, amounted to the sum of 

■ three and a half million francs — £140,000. Some of the 


prisoners, no doubt, on peace being re-established, sent 
money over to pay off their creditors ; but apparently not 
very many were so honest. Most of the returned captives 
as a fact looked on the matter as a case of " spoiling the 
Egyptians " ; they rather gloated over disposing of their 
grievances against France in that way. They salved their 
consciences by saying it was a matter for the British 
Government to settle. The Treasury in England, it would 
seem, however, had no higher a sense of honour in regard 
to the matter than the individuals particularly concerned. 
Under the Treaty of Paris, France paid in cash to 
England, by way of estimated compensation for English 
property confiscated at the Revolution, sixty millions of 
francs, an amount which, when all the claims put forward 
had been met, proved excessive, no fewer than nine millions 
of francs remaining unappropriated. That surplus was 
retained by the British Treasury, who shabbily and dis- 
honestly, on the strength of a Crown lawyer's quibble, 
refused to pay any of it back to France for the benefit 
of the Verdun creditors, in spite of urgent representations 
repeatedly made by the French Government. As late as 
1839 efforts were made by the Government of Louis 
Philippe to obtain repayment to the legal representatives 
of the Verdun creditors, but, putting forward the excuse 
that the debts were personal liabilities incurred in a private 
capacity, the British Government of the day refused to 
pay a penny, or return any of the surplus. 

The money is in this year — 1914 — still owing to the 
descendants of the Verdun townsfolk of 1814. Is it too 
late now, at this time of our Entente Cordiale with France, 
on the point of national honour, as an act of bare justice, 
for a settlement to be made ? 


Alexander, Captain, 156 
Amiens, i6r, 163, 225, 295 
Aprece, Lieutenant, R.N., 155 
Arras, 24, 94, 243, 295 
Ashworth, Henry, midshipman, 

282, 285, 286, 292 
Attempts tomake British prisoners 

turn traitors, 10, 27, 65, 69-72, 

103-105, 187, 213 
Austrian prisoners, fate of, 2-5, 

16, 17, 18. 20-22 

Barker, Lieutenant, K.N., prisoner 

at Verdun, 41, 156 
Beauchene, Baton de, Governor 

of Verdun, 53, 153, 235 
Beliard, General, Governor of I 

Madrid. 206, 210, 211, 212, 215, j 

Berthier, Marshal, 5, 18, 231 
Bessieres, Marshal, 215 
Bibles for British prisoners, 48 
Bitche, 24, 49, 60, 89-94, 139-144, 

150, 1 60, 229, 230, 237, 241, 

243, 248, 256, 282-293, 295 
Blaney, General Lord, 92, 94, 95, 

171-172, i<>7-238, 297-507 
Blankcnberge, 275, 276 
Blois, 295, 29S 

Boothby, Captain, R.E., 12-13 
Bordeaux, 192, 193, 21&, 307 
" Boulets de discipline at Ver- 
dun, 245 
Boyes, F.dward, midshipman, 72- 

74, 237-260, 266, 276, 280, 281 
Brenton, Sir Jahleel. Captain, 

R.X., 48, 55. 61-66, 70, 14^, 

145, 175-196 

Bruges, 275, 276, 280 
Bulow, General, 168, 170 

Cadell, Midshipman, 260, 261, 

Caulaincourt, Marshal, 82-84 
Charlemont, fortress of, 24, 61, 

67, 83, 87, 167, 184, 295 
Chelsea Hospital, French trophies 

at, 8, 9 
Cherbourg, 61, 173, 174 
Clarke, General, Due de Feltre, 

Minister of War, 50, 231 
Coghill. Sir John, 226 
Conran, Lieutenant, R.N., killed 

in duel, 156 
Conscription, life under the, 17, 

131-132, 178, 194, 222 
Cossacks, 163-170, 295, 298 
Courcelles, Colonel, Governor of 

Verdun, 52-54, 152, 153, 228. 

229, 231, 232, 233, 235, 237 
Coursing in Spain, French 

methods, 202, 210 
Court-martial at Metz on British 

prisoners, summary of, 283- 

Cox, murder of Seaman, 142-143, 


Dacre, George Hall, midshipman, 

283, 285 
Daly, John, 282, 284, 285 
Davis, Surgeon, at Verdun. 47 
Depot regulations for British 

prisoners, 31-38. 44-45, 228-229 
Dillon, Hon. Henry, Colonel. 





Dillon, Lieutenant, R.N., arrested, 

Dresden, parade of prisoners 

through, 20 
Duels among British prisoners, 

41, 46, 154-157 
Dumuy, General, 103, 104, 105 

Elgin, Lord, 57, 191, 192 
English prisoners, classification, 

allowances, and uniform of, 36- 

38, 61-63, 182 
Epinal, prisoner depot at, 24, 178, 

180, i8r, 189 
Essel, Lieutenant, R.N., fate of, 

Executions, scenes at, 133-135, 

219, 220 

Flayelle, Colonel, at Givet, 77, 78, 

84, 267 
Freemasonry, 41, 208 

Gale, brutalities to Midshipman, 

255, 256 
Gambling hells at Verdun, 43, 44, 

"3. 234 
Gardner, John, seaman, sentence 

on, 249 
Garland, 149 

atrocious treatment of a dd- 
tenu, 149, 150, 151 
Giles, Joseph, sentence on, 282, 

Givet, 24, 60-88, 184-185 
Gorden, Rev. W., at Verdun, 47, 

48, 188 
Gould, duel of, 154, 155 
Grey, Dr. Sir Thomas, 193, 195 
Gueret, prisoners at, 305, 307 
Guerillas, Spanish, French dread 

of, 202, 210, 212, 213, 214 

Hanoverian Legion, Napoleon's, 9 
Hayward, -Midshipman, murder 

of, 255-256 
Hewson, Midshipman, 249, 250 
Horse-racing at Verdun, 44, 237, 

HuJsel, Henry, seaman, sentence 

on, 249 

Hulin, General, Governor of Paris, 

225, 226 
Hunter, Midshipman, escape of, 

257, 265, 276, 280, 281 

Infernet, Captain, at Trafalgar, 

exchange of, 195 
Irish Legion, Napoleon's, 10, 27, 

50-51, 69-72, 103-105, 187, 213 

Jackson, George Vernon, Lieu- 
tenant, escapes of, 240, 241 

James, R. B., Lieutenant, R.N., 
narrative of, 96-172 

Joan of Arc, statue at Orleans, 
109, 1 10 

Johnson, extraordinary behaviour 
of a ship's doctor, 154 

Jurien, Captain, exchanged for 
Captain Brenton, 189 

Kellerman, General, 244 
King of Rome, birth of the, 224 
Knights of the Round Tower, 
the, 232 note 

Lavie, Sir Thomas, Captain, R.N., 

151, 152 
Lavoisier, General, 204, 205, 207 
Lawrence, Chevalier, 43 
Lee, Rev. Launcelot, prisoner at 

Verdun, 188 
Le Sage, Colonel, Governor of 

Sarre Libre, prison depot, 146- 


L'Estrange, Lieutenant, escape 
of, 71st Regiment, 241 

Leviscourt, Lieutenant, punish- 
ment of, 245 

Light, John, seaman, 2S2, 284, 285 

Madrid, 12, 205-208, 210, 211 
Maisonneuve, Governor of Bitche, 

Malaga, 198, 201 
Mansell, Midshipman, 257, 267, 

271, 272, 278, 279, 280 
Marshall, murder of Seaman. 142, 




Masson, Lieutenant of Police at 

Verdun, 52, 152, 153, 231 
Masters, Midshipman, 293 
Maude, Rev., prisoner at Verdun, 

Metz, 24, 138, 162, 188, 249, 289, 

Meulan, Major de, Governor of 

Verdun, 53, 54, 237 
Miles, Lieutenant, killed in a 

duel, 156 
Molyneux, Captain, prisoner at 

Verdun, 45 
Mons, 168, 169, 170 
Morgan, Seaman, shot for resist- 
ing a gendarme, 147, 148 
Morris, Midshipman, 156 
Moves, Midshipman, escape of, 

259, 280 

Nancy, prisoners at, 24, 132, 134, 

151, 188 
Nantz, 101, 108, 109 
Napoleon and Lieutenant-General 
Sidney Smith, 245, 246 
and the British prisoners at 

Givet, 80-88 
at Verdun, 1 14 
and the Mayor of Mars la 
Tour, 137-138 

O'Brien, Midshipman, 26, 29, 30, 
60, 89, 91, 92, 247, 248, 249, 
250-254, 282, 285, 286 

Orleans, no, 223, 224, 295 

Oubliette, the, 221 

Owen, Lieutenant, R.N., detained 
in Paris, 226-227 

Pay of British prisoners, 12, 32, 

36, 62, 181 
Penrice, Captain, duel of, 156 
Perigaux, execution by guillotine 

at, 219 
Perregaux Freres, bankers of 

Paris, 151, 176, 177, 195 
Petervin, Captain, Governor of 

Givet, 63, 64 
Phalsbourg, fortress of, 24, 181- 

184, 188 

Playgrove, Peter, escape of, 242 

Poictiers, 220 

Polish Legion, Napoleon's, 9, 16, 

Pope Pius VII., 299-300 
Porteus, Dr. William, escape of, 

115, 129 
Potts, George, midshipman, 282, 

284, 285 
Proposals to exchange British 

prisoners, 54-59 
Prussian prisoners, fate of, 2, 5-9, 

17, 19, 22 

Ricketts, Midshipman, 261, 266, 

Rochefort, 8, 96, 193 
Roussel, General, Governor of 

Verdun, 229 
Russian prisoners, fate of, 9, 16, 

17, 18, 19, 20, 22 

Saragossa, Spanish prisoners 

from, 13 
Sarrelouis, 24, 60, 95, 259 
Schill, Colonel, 15 
Scott, Midshipman, 156 
Sebastiani, General, 198, 201 
Sedan, prison depot at, 24, 60, 

94,95, 161-163, 188 
Simon, General, 171, 236 
Simpson, Surgeon, treatment of, 

at Verdun, 129 
Smith, Lieutenant George Sidney, 

245, 246 
Soult, Marshal, 4, 11, 198 
Souterrains of Bitche, the, 91-94, 


" Spanish Corner," 15 

Spanish prisoners, fate of, 10-16, 
201, 219 

Stack, Colonel, prisoner at Ver- 
dun, 90, 186 

Strasburg, 181, 241, 242, 252 

Sturt, Charles, prisoner at Ver- 
dun, 49 

Thomson, Thomas, midshipman, 



Toulon, 257, 259, 282 

Tour d'Angouleme at Verdun, 

129, 135-136, 232 note 
Tours, 64, 107, 108, 109, 191, 193, 

221, 295 
Trafalgar, news of, in France, 

114-115, 191-192 
Tuckey, Lieutenant, R.N., 45, 

Tuthill, Midshipman, escape of, 
288, 289 

Valenciennes, prisoner depot at, 

24, 94, 243, 244, 261, 295 
Verdun, clubs at, 40-44, 113 

prisoner depot at, 24, 25, 27, 
29, 32, 39-59, 61, 63-65, 90, 
112-115, 135-136, 149, 154, 
171, 184, 187, 190, 228-238, 
240, 241, 242, 243, 245, 
247, 295-298, 307-308 

Wallis, James, Lieutenant, R.N., 

Wasronville, Baron, Governor of 

Sedan, 16 1 
Whitefield, Midshipman, 171 
Whitehurst, Midshipman, escape 

of, 257, 258, 263, 265, 267, 271, 

272, 276, 278, 280, 281 
Willoughby, Nesbit, Captain, 

R.N., 246, 247 
Wirion, General, Governor of 

Verdun, 41-43, 48-54, 89, 91, 

149-152, 185, 186, 188, 190, 195, 

230, 231, 235, 237, 258, 259 
Wolfe, Rev. Robert, Chaplain to 

the prisoners at Givet, 65-81, 

84, 85, 86, 87 
Wright, Wesley, Captain, R.N., 

245, 246 
Wright, William, midshipman, 

escape of, 241-242 








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Botor Chapkron, The. C N. & A. M. 


Boy. Marie Corelli. 

Charm, The. Alice Ptrrin. 

Dan Russf.l t:.e Fox. E. G5. Soraerville 
and iAartiu 

I Fire in Stubbie. Baroness Orciy. 

Gate of Desert, The. John Oxcnham. 
i Guarded Flame, The. W. B. Maxwell. 
i Halo, The. Baroness von Hutten. 
j Hill Rise. W. B. Maxwell. 
I Jans. Marie Corelli. 



Methuen's Shilling Novels -continued. 

Joseph. Frank Danby. 

Lady Betty Across the Water. C N. 

and A M. Williamson. 

Light Freights. W. W. Jacobs. 

Long Road, The. John Oxenham. 

Mighty At< vi. T'IB. Marie Corelli. 

Mirage. E. Temple Thurston. 

Missing Delg:a, The. E. Phillips Oppen- 

Round inr Rkd Lamp. Sir A. Conaii Doyle. 

SaT:\ i i.a Fisherman. Marmaduke Pick- 

Search Party, The. G. A. Birmingham. 
i Secret Woman, The. Edtn Phillpotts. 
i St'VERiNS, The. Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick. 
j Spanish Gold. G. A. Birmingham 

Splendid Brother. W. Pett Ridge. 

i Tales op Mean Streets. Arthur Morrison. 

Teresa ok Watling Street. Arnold 

Tyrant, The. Mrs. Henry de la Pasture. 

! Under thk Red Robe. Stanley J. Weyman. 

I Virginia Perfect. Peggy Webling. 

| Woman with the Fan, The. Robert 

Methuen's SeYenpenny Novels 

Fcap, %vo. yd. net 

L;y Sts 
Hot ,F. 

B. M C '..or. 

Squire, The. S Baring-G< uld 
oke op Sword. Andrew Balfour. 
ok Whispers, The. William Le 

I ) 

Human V. v, The. Eden Phillpotts. 
I C. ; ■ ■• Thee King. Max Pembertoo. 
Late in Lifp.. Alice Perrin. 
Lose Pine R. U. Townshend. 
Master o^ M'-.n. E. Phillips Oppenheim. 
Mixed Marriage, A. Mr F. E. Penny. 

Peter, a Parasite. E. Maria Albanesi. 

Pomp of the Lavilettes, The. Sir Gilbert 

Prince Rupert the Buccaneer. C. J. 
Cutcliffe Hyne, 

Princess Virginia, The. C. N. & A. M. 


Propit and Loss. John Oxenham, 

Red House, The. E. Nesbit. 

Sign of the Spider, The. Bertram Mitford. 

Son of the State, A. W. Pelt Ridge. 

27'! '■ 1 

Printed by Morrison & Gipb Limited, Edinburgh 

203. J? 



Santa Barbara 





AA 000169 523 8